skid row(1931) and "skid road"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 10 05:13:44 UTC 2006

In Los Angeles, "skid row" isn't a poor section of town, such as South
Central. It's a part of downtown, east of the shopping district, maybe
a couple of blocks square, filed with Chicano-owned and operated
take-out joints featuring fried shrimp and and fried chicken, tacos,
burritos, and tamales; a porn shop or two; cheap porno movie houses
open all night long, a few nudie bars that were formerly strip joints;
a random number of cheap bars; and that sine qua non of skid rows,
winos stumbling along the sidewalk or passed out on the sidewalks, in
doorways, and in the alleys.

>From all that I've read about skid rows, this is basically what a
"skid row," is. It doesn't necessarily have any special reference to
the poor part of town. Of course, I could have what is referred to in
the 'hood as a "bad understanding" of the term.


On 9/8/06, Sam Clements <SClements at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Sam Clements <SClements at NEO.RR.COM>
> Subject:      skid row(1931) and "skid road"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Certainly "skid row" to describe a poor, flophouse infested part of =
> town, usually in a large city, first came into print about 1931.  In =
> addition to the term being included in "American Tramp and Underworld =
> Slang," it's cited in Newspaperarchive from the same year in a story =
> about the poor section of San Francisco.  =20
> While the conventional wisdom is that the term perhaps originated as =
> "skid road" in reference to logging in the late 1800's, especially in =
> the Pacific Northwest,  I find an almost total lack of that term, "skid =
> road," used from 1880-1931 in searches using ProQuest and =
> Newspaperarchive.  At least, in reference to the poor section of town. =20
> Why wouldn't we find this term "skid road," referring to a poor section =
> of town, available more freely in newspaper stories? =20
> Sam Clements
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

Everybody says, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange
complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.

--Sam Clemens

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list