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Posted by Pfbb1058 on February 01, 2007

In Reply to: Re: SKIN SOMEONE and SKIN SOMEONE ALIVE posted by pamela on January 25, 2007

: : : Dear moderators,

: : : I turn to your assistance when dictionaries Ogive out, or when information I obtain comes from some obscure source. So far, this help coming from educated native speaking informants with broad philological and general background (whether they are professional linguists or otherwise) has been truly invaluable. My personal interests lie in the realm of meaning and usage rather than etymology of phraseological units. Right now, for example, I try to figure out whether the slang expressions SKIN SOMEONE and SKIN SOMEONE ALIVE are identical in meaning or only partially overlap sharing one meaning in common ^ no dictionary can help me here. Another example of my current pursuits may be discriminating (along similar lines) between STAND AWAY FROM SOMETHING and STAY AWAY FROM SOMETHING, etc.

: : : Yours is a great site, so let me thank you once again for the good (and incredibly extensive!) work you are doing.

: : These phrases can overlap; it's a question of context, as always.

: : To "skin" someone has been used in gambling slang since the 19th century to mean "win all their money". (A similar idiom was "to strip" someone, implying that you had won not only all their money but the very clothes off their back. Obviously somebody who has been "skinned" has lost even more.) These days "skin" in this sense is used more generally and can mean to steal or cheat someone. To "skin them alive" can be used as an intensified form of this.

: : However, to "skin someone alive" can also mean "to beat them very hard" and the metaphor here is simply lacerating the skin by whipping.

: : As for "stay away" and "stand away", personally I would say that "stand away" is used in a literal, spatial sense, as in "Stand away from that palm tree - a coconut might fall on your head", whereas "stay away" is used less literally, as in "Stay away from my girlfriend or else". (VSD)

: :
: : : Best regards,
: : : Yuri

: I think that it is also worth mentioning the literal meanings. "To skin someone" is merely to remove their skin (just as you would skin a rabbit), whereas "to skin someone alive" is to remove their skin while they are living (which could only be motivated by a desire to inflict torturous pain and suffering - why else would you skin a rabbit while it was still alive?). So the metaphorical use of "skin" to mean take all their money in gambling (as described by Victoria) seems naturally available for intensification by the addition of "alive". Pamela

Skin someone - 'take the shirt off their back'. Gamblers staked their shirts after their money ran out.

Hence -
. . . . .'skint' (aka skinned) for broke.
. . . . .'skinflint' for loan shark.

Skin someone alive - flay, as with the lash.