Date: Tue, 13 Jan 1998 11:57:12 -0500

From: Larry Horn laurence.horn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU

Subject: Re: skell

Oops. I forgot to write the message before sending it. I wanted to

express my thanks, and those of the New Haven Register journalist who

contacted me, for the information contributed by David, Allan, and Jesse

on "skell". Both the writer and I had (independently) inferred from the

use of the term by police on "NYPD Blue" that it referred to small-time

hoods or perps, and that it might be related to the archaic "skellum"

('scoundrel, rascal') listed in the OED, but it's clear that the

resemblance here is coincidental. The derivation from "skeleton" is much

more plausible, given the original use in the late '70s through early '90s

as a policeperson's term of art to refer to vagrants who sleep in the NYC

subways, whether or not of criminal inclination. One question that arises

now is whether we might anticipate an extended use to other cities that

don't have subways open all night: will a "skell" be any vagrant? Any

small-time hood (following the apparent use on NYPD Blue)? Has anyone

encountered a non-NYC use of the word?