Date: Mon, 12 Jan 1998 16:15:23 -0500
From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM
Subject: Re: skell?
You'll find it in the brand-new _Oxford Dictionary of New Words_ (1997), which
misleadingly takes the same title as its 1991 predecessor (without calling
itself a new edition), but seems to be almost entirely new.
It defines the word:
In New York, a homeless person or derelict, especially one who sleeps in the
subway system. Perhaps formed as a shortening of _skeleton_.
Allan got to this before I could, but the ODNW 97's treatment
(which Allan quotes, although I should point out that that entry
is an almost verbatim copy of the one that appeared in the Oxford
English Dictionary Additions Series Volume I in 1993) is
generally pretty accurate. We have examples to the early 1970s,
but the _skeleton_ etymology is probably correct, and the ODNW's
claim of only New York City for the word's regional distribution
is also accurate according to our data.
Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang
jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]panix.com