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Skew whiff

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 18, 2008 at 14:37:

In Reply to: Skew whiff posted by Desiree on March 18, 2008 at 11:51:

: Have you any ideas of the origins of the phrase Skew whiff? I'm not sure if it's really a phrase, or just a word which I should hyphenate.

The OED likes to hyphenate two-word combinations which are commonly used together as though one word, and so it is with skew-whiff. According to the OED its a combination of skew (adj. or adv.) which means askew, and whiff (n.), which means puff of air. No doubt you already know that the combination means askew or awry. The word or expression has been in use since the mid-eighteenth century. The OED cites many examples, with slight variations in spelling, of which my favorite is:

"1959 I. & P. OPIE Lore & Lang. Schoolch. iii. 47 If a boy's cap is on skew-whiff: 'Are you wearing that cap or just walking underneath it?'"