Date: Tue, 13 Jan 1998 12:12:10 -0500

From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM

Subject: Re: skell

Larry Horn wrote:

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?

I don't have any _reliable_ non-NYC attestations, but do have a number

of cites in broader senses along the lines of 'lowlife; dirtbag' as

well as 'low-level criminal' (when these can be distinguished). Despite

its often being defined as 'vagrant sleeping in subways', I think this

stems more from the specificity of the 1982 N.Y. Times citation that

has been frequently requoted, as David points out, than from actual

usage. That is, I think the sense 'vagrant sleeping in subway' is


I also think that the frequent use of the word on NYPD Blue and

Brooklyn South will probably help it spread to non-NYC communities.

Jesse Sheidlower