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23 skidoo

Posted by ESC on March 27, 2000

In Reply to: 1920's slang posted by Bruce Kahl on March 27, 2000

: : im trying to figure out what "23 skidoo" means, and who "izzy and moe" are. anything would help at this point. thanks!

: I lifted the following word for word from the Word Detective:

: The puzzle of "twenty-three skiddoo," which can mean "let's go," "get lost," "whoopee!," or a variety of other things, is one of the classic word-origin questions, and nearly every authority has at least one theory.

: The "skiddoo" part is fairly easy to trace, and is almost certainly a variant of the slang word "skedaddle," meaning "to depart in haste." The "twenty-three," however, is a bit more obscure. One theory, which is often reported as fact, but isn't, traces the phrase to the corner of Twenty-third Street and Broadway in New York City. This is the location of the famous Flatiron Building, built in 1902 and known for the fierce updrafts its triangular shape (resembling an old-style flatiron) causes on the neighboring sidewalks. It is said that young men of the period would gather at this corner in hopes of seeing a lady's dress blown up by the wind, a practice which the local police would discourage with the gruff order "Twenty-three skiddoo!" Early films of the "dress blowing" phenomenon do, in fact, exist. You can even download one from the Library of Congress site on the Web. But "Twenty-three Skiddoo" was a popular phrase among young people as early as the 1890's, long before the Flatiron Building, which caused the wind storms in the first place, was even built.

: The late etymologist Eric Partridge reported that one of his correspondents felt that the phrase might have had its roots in old telegraphers' code, where common phrases were replaced by numbers. In this code, "30" sent in Morse code meant "end of transmission" (a notation still used by journalists to signal the end of a story), "73" meant "best regards" (still very much in use by amateur radio operators), and "23" meant "away with you!" This seems a far more likely explanation of the phrase.

: ~words1/backidx.html

And here's another theory: 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.'")

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