Originally posted by Whit Haydn:
That is possible, I guess, Payne. But how recent is the use of "burned" as a synonym for "cheated?" I expect it is relatively recent. If the slang "burned" does not go back very far, how could the connection have been made to an archaic word such as "scaum?"
Does the OED actually make the connection from "scam" as a con game to "scam" as burned, or is that a connection that you inferred?
Burned as a synonym for cheated goes back to the 1600's
From the OED
1655 R. BAILLIE Let. (1842) III. 290 Our people were so ill-burnt, that they had no stomach for any farder medling. [a1700 B. E. Dict. Cant. Crew, Burnt the Town, when the Soldiers leave the Place without paying their Quarters.] 1808 JAMIESON, Burn, to deceive, to cheat in a bargain. 1844 Philad. Spirit of Times 19 Aug. (Th.), Two negro burners were arrested in the act of trying to burn two Pottsville boatmen with a plated chain worth about fifteen cents. 1926 J. BLACK You can't Win ix. 106 If you'd burnt Shorty for his end of that coin, you'd have been here just the same. 1969 Sunday Truth (Brisbane) 16 Mar. 39/2, I figured I'd burn the guy for a thousand
Sham is equally as old first occuring in 1677
Again from the OED
1677 WYCHERLEY Pl. Dealer III. i. 44 Law. Why, I'm sure you jok'd upon me, and shamm'd me all night long. Man...Shamming! What does he mean by't Freeman? Free. Shamming, is telling you an insipid, dull Lye, with a dull Face, which the slie Wag the Author only laughs at himself; and making himself believe 'tis a good Jest, puts the Sham only upon himself. 1688 SHADWELL Sq. Alsatia II. Wks. 1720 IV. 42 Sirrah! most audacious rogue! do you sham me? do you think you have your uncle to deal with? 1693 Humours Town 69 Their highest Excellence is, to banter the Vintner, to bilk their Lodgings, to sham their Bookseller. 1821 BYRON To Mr. Murray iv, So, if you will, I shan't be shamm'd.
Scam, which the OED states is "obs. form of SHAME; var. SCAUM v., Sc.", seems to be a rather recent arrival in the lexicon appearing 40 years ago.
One last time from the OED
1963 Time 28 June 48/2 My boss was scammin' from the public, and I was scammin' from him. 1966 Wall Street Jrnl. 9 Sept. 1/1 "Scam' originally was a carnival term meaning "to fleece the public'. 1974 Whig-Standard (Kingston, Ont.) 9 Apr. 4/1 Scamming..is a form of criminal bankruptcy in which a front man buys out a legitimate firm and then uses the credit rating of the firm to buy large quantities of merchandise. Ibid. 4/3 Scamming, he said, ranks second only to bookmaking in financial importance to criminals. 1977 New Yorker 30 May 96/2 Local citizens..try to avoid being scammed by the familiar tergiversations of city politicians.