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23 skidoo

From Academic Kids

For the article on the band of the same name, see 23 Skidoo.

23 Skidoo is an American slang popularized in the early Twentieth Century (first appearing before World War I and becoming popular in the Roaring Twenties). It generally refers to leaving quickly. One nuance of the phrase suggests being rushed out by someone else. Another is taking advantage of a propitious opportunity to leave, that is, "getting out while the getting is good."

Wentworth and Flexner describe it as "perhaps the first truly national fad expression and one of the most popular fad expressions to appear in the U.S."

There are several stories suggesting the origin of the phrase, none that have been universally accepted.

Webster's New World Dictionary derives skiddoo (with two d's) as probably from skedaddle, meaning "to leave", with an imperative sense. Note that as of June 21, 2004, Google returned 9,120 English language hits on "23 Skidoo" (one d) but only 818 English language hits on "23 Skiddoo" (two d's). This is, however, complicated by the fact that there is a band called "23 Skidoo".

The "23" part of the phrase has a wide diversity of explanations. Among them:

  • New York City's Flatiron Building, on 23rd Street, is shaped as a triangle. This shape caused frequent winds, which would stir ladies' skirts, revealing ankles which, in the early years of the Twentieth Century, were seldom seen in public. Rogues would loiter around the Flatiron Building hoping for glimpses. Local constables, shooing such rogues away, were said to be giving them the 23 Skidoo.
  • An early 1900s Death Valley town had 23 saloons (many basically tents). A visit to all, going 23 Skidoo, meant having a really good time.
  • Sydney Carton, the protagonist of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, is the 23rd person sent to the guillotine in a series of executions in a popular stage production of the book.
  • Eric Partridge, in his Dictionary of Catch Phrases, suggests that 23 was an old Morse Code signal used by telegraph operators to mean "away with you." (The same story accounts for 30 as "end of transmission", a code still used by modern journalists, who place it at the end of articles as a sign to editors. However, the Western Union 92 code, which is the source of 30 and other numbers like 73 and 88 still used in Amateur radio, lists 23 as "all stations copy".)

External links

References

  • Wentworth, Harold and Stuart Berg Flexner, 1960, Dictionary of American Slang, Thomas Y. Crowell
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