Date: Tue, 13 Jan 1998 11:57:12 -0500 From: Larry Horn 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? Larry