Twenty-three skiddoo

Michael Quinion TheEditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Fri Feb 20 11:38:14 UTC 2004

Some interesting quotes have come out of First
is this from the "Coshocton Daily Age" for 31 Dec 1906: "Bill keeps
up with the times and knows that skiddoo means 23". This equation is
reinforced by a humorous piece in the "Elyria Daily Chronicle" for 17
September 1906:

Miss Schidu Will Give It Sept. 23 to Twenty-Three Girls

A "skiddoo" party is the latest. Miss Margaret Schidu of Cleveland,
O., will give a party on Sept. 23 in honor of her twenty-third
birthday at her home, 23 East Twenty-third street, says a special
dispatch from Cleveland to the Chicago Inter Ocean. "People have been
having lots of fun with our name since the term 'skiddoo' has come
into use." said Miss Schidu recently, "so I decided to have a real
'skiddoo' party on my next birthday. My age will be carried out
prettily with twenty-three candles on the birthday cake, and a
souvenir card lettered twenty-three will be distributed among the
twenty-three guests -- I am going to have just twenty-three girls
present, you know -- while an orchestra of twenty-three pieces will
play behind a bank of twenty-three palms. I am trying to get a
friend, a composer, to write a ballad entitled 'Skiddoo For You.' I
propose to engage autos and change their license numbers to 23. I
have an uncle who has a farm of twenty-three acres and shall take my
guests there in the afternoon, where there will be dancing in the
evening, with twenty-three dances on the programme."

And a suggestion for the origin of the number appears in the
"Humeston New Era" for 26 Dec. 1906:

The slang words "skiddoo" and "twenty-three" have an associated
meaning which is "get out of the way," "make way for your betters"
and so forth. "Skiddoo" seems to be another form of "skedaddle,"
which is an old, familiar slang word for precipitate retreat. It is
probably college slang, since it is derived from the Greek word
"skedazein," which means run away. The figures "23" are a telegraphic
signal or abbreviation, which means that messages marked with it need
not be hurried through if there is more important matter to occupy
the wires. A "23" message, therefore, is one that has to surrender
the right of way if there are others that must be rushed through
without delay, la other words, it has to get out of the way of its
Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words
E-mail: <TheEditor at>
Web: <>

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