Posted by Smokey Stover on September 15, 2004
In Reply to: My Thanks to DFG and ESC posted by Bruce Kahl on September 14, 2004
: : : : Used as a noun, a skid is a group of planks used to support something.
: : : : Used as a verb, to skid is to fail to grip the roadway.
: : : : Any of you OEDers out there have an explanation as to why "hit the skids" means a losing streak?
: : : I think (with not too much confidence) that this is a US expression. 'Skid Row' is a metaphor for being destitute (don't know why) so I assume 'hitting the skids' might derive from this. Again, I stand to be corrected.
: : : DFG
: : HIT THE SKIDS - Also "on the skids." One reference says these expressions relate to 'Skid Row,' a 1920s term for the center for down-and-outers, alcoholics, tramps and other poor and homeless people. It comes from ".late 19C logging jargon 'skid road,' a grassed track over which logs were hauled towards the river that would float them down to the sawmill: c1915 the term was extended into sl. to mean that part of town where loggers spent their free time or lived when they were out of work. It was the latter meaning, with its added implication of a man, rather than a log, who was 'skidding downhill' economically that dominated the usage in the 1930s when 'skid road' became 'skid row'." "Cassell's Dictionary of Slang" by Jonathon Green (Wellington House, London, 1998).
: My gratitude speaks,
I guess I'm what Bruce calls an OEDer. The OED has quite a bit to say, all of it consonant with what Bruce has said, for example: [OED] "skid road, (a) a way or track formed of skids (2d) along which logs are hauled; (b) N. Amer., orig. a downtown area frequented by loggers; now gen. = SKID-ROW." A widely held theory is that the original Skid Road was an area in Seattle frequented by loggers, who predictably came to town to spend their money, sometimes (Fie!) on booze and women. The name eventually metamorphosed into Skid Row, and was applied to areas of similar degeneration in other cities. Since the skids for which Skid Road was named derived from the skidway used for coaxing logs downhill, it follows that "on the skids" and similar expressions mean "going downhill." I think whoever used it to mean "on a losing streak" is straining it just a bit, probably through ignorance of the original meaning. SS