Posted by ESC on July 18, 1999
In Reply to: American phrases posted by John Semion on June 04, 1999
23 skidoo - From "Who Put the Butter in Butterfly?" by David Feldman, Harper & Row: "Why is the only number you see before skidoo 23? Who would have thought that this breezy bit of slang has lofty roots? It does, in Charles Dickens 'Tale of Two Cities.' The hero of this sad novel is Sidney Carton, who is the twenty-third of a multitude executed by the guillotine.
In the last act of the theatrical adaptation, 'The Only Way,' an old woman sits at the foot of the guillotine, calmly counting heads as they are lopped off. The only recognition or dignity afforded Carton as he meets his fate is the old woman emotionlessly saying 'twenty-three' as he is beheaded.
'Twenty-three' quickly became a popular catchphrase among the theater community in the early twentieth century, often used to mean, 'It's time to leave while the getting is good.' Cartoonist T.A. Dorgan combined 'twenty-three' with 'skidoo.' Skidoo was simply a fanciful variant of 'skedaddle.'"
(Skedaddle, according to "The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne, Pantheon Books, originated in the American Civil War and ".suggestions have been made as to the word's derivation; it is probably a form of a dialect version of 'scatter' or 'scuttle.'")
"hang ten (verb American) - to ride a surfboard (at near-optimum speed or full stretch) with the toes of both feet hooked over the front. From the jargon of American surfers since the early 1960s. The phrase is sometimes used figuratively to mean something like 'go full-tilt on a risky course.'" "The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne. Pantheon Books.