"Skank" redux

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Mon Jun 28 14:42:36 UTC 2004

When I first heard the word now spelled "skank" in Saint Louis,
ca.1950, I wondered whether it should be spelled: "skink" or "skank,"
given that either of these spellings would be pronounced "skank,"
because slang terms are always pronounced as soulfully ("The name of
this song is 'This Here,' but, _for purposes of soul_, we gon' cawl it,
'Disshih-uh.'" -Cannonball Adderly) as possible.

It was also the case, in those days in Saint Louis, that it was class,
not morals, that determined whether a girl was a skank. At that time,
the Pruitt-Igoe Homes, to this day, the largest housing project ever
built, was located in Saint Louis. Girls from the poverty-stricked
families that were forced to live in this project were called
"skinks/skanks" or "skags" by middle-class black teen-aged boys, with
no reference made to their morals. However, it goes without  saying
that, despite the lack of any evidence in support of this assumption,
as is usually the case, boys from the better classes felt that girls
from the lower orders were somehow more promiscuous than their
middle-class counterparts. There was even a term for going on the hunt
for these girls: "skink-/skank-making" or "skag-making."

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