Posted by R. Berg on February 22, 2002
In Reply to: Skinny dipping posted by ESC on February 22, 2002
: : I'm writing something and need to know the origin/reason for the term "skinny-dipping" as a reference to nude swimming.
: : Thanks.
: I looked in several references and only found the term in one. Which was surprising since it's a common phrase. Maybe someone else will have more information.
: SKINNY DIPPING - " 'Let's go to the beach' with its image of a sun-drenched, sandy shore, is a typically American expression -- in England the 16th-century word 'beach' had originally meant a gravelly shore. In early colonial days, 'beach' referred specifically to the Hudson River's east bank and the sandy offshore New Jersey islands. Here one might go 'sea bathing' or 'dipping' (the word is still found in our expression 'skinny dipping,' swimming 'in the skin,' or naked), terms then used by refined people and by doctors, who prescribed sea bathing for ailments." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).
I first heard the phrase in the 1960s in California, if that's any help.