Date: Thu, 18 Jun 1998 15:26:58 -0400
From: Jesse T Sheidlower
Subject: "skell" update

A month or so ago we discussed the word _skell_ 'a
despicable person, esp. a derelict or street criminal'.
At the time I thought that the earliest example we had
in the HDAS files was from the early 1970s.

I've now looked through that section, and while we
still don't have anything as early as the remarkable
1957 cite that Jim Rader proffered, we do have these
two early examples from a prominent writer:

1960 H. Selby, Jr., in _Provincetown Review_ III 81:
She didn't need any goddamn skell to buy her a drink.

1957-64 H. Selby, Jr. _Last Exit to Brooklyn_ 88: Of
course some a [sic] the skells from the bar worked
their way up...and grabbed what they could.

The nuance here seems to be more 'despicable person',
not quite the same as most of the later cites.

After this we have a jump to the 1970s, but we have
a large number of cites, mostly from police sources,
in the early-mid 1970s.

Jesse Sheidlower
Random House