Date: Mon, 9 Feb 1998 19:59:03 -0500
From: Gerald Cohen gcohen[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UMR.EDU
Subject: Re: "the skinny"

Jim Rader's very helpful 2/6/98 posting on "the skinny" caught my
attention particularly for its connecting " skinny" to Naval Academy slang,
where it could mean "physics and chemistry."

What, I wondered, is the connection of "skinny" with "physics and
chemistry," when I remembered that I once reprinted a 1904 article on Naval
Academy slang ("A New Vocabulary of Slang Created by the Naval Cadets at
Annapolis," _The World --NYC newspaper--, Sunday, May 1, 1904, The World
Magazine section, p.6/2-5---Reprinted in my _Studies in Slang, V, Frankfurt
a.M.: Peter Lang, 1997, pp.57-60).

The 1904 article says: "'Physics and Chemistry" are condensed and
compressed into one term, which has come to be applied to one of the
Academy buildings, Skinny."

Maybe "condensed and compressed" in the quote just above provides
unexpectedly the clue to "the skinny." "Skinny" implies the essentials of a
matter--no frills, no fluff, nothing extraneous--the condensed/compressed
truth. To hard-nosed scientific types, the various humanistic disciplines
and the fine arts would count as frills, whereas physics and chemistry are
the core of understanding the universe. (How often in the 1970s did I hear
my own discipline, Foreign Languages, referred to on my engineering
campus--now a much more enlightened place--as "a frill!")

So, "the skinny" was originally the bare-bones facts, unaccompanied by
any additional blubber. This also seems to fit the 1938 quote cited by Jim
Rader (from Richard Hallet's _The Rolling World_, p.287):
"...Had she really given me the skinny of an actual legend from the
archives of her race, or was she wafting me the native poetry of her soul?"

--Gerald Cohen