[Ads-l] what's the latest [,] dope/poop/skinny?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Sep 15 21:54:08 UTC 2019

The earliest discovered exx. of "the skinny," acc. to HDAS, appear in the
adventure memoir, _The Rolling World_ (Boston: Houghton, 1938), by Richard
[Matthews] Hallet.  Hallet (1887-1967), from Boothbay Harbor, Maine, had
two degrees from Harvard when in 1912 he decided to ditch his law career
and go to sea.  His book mainly covers the period of 1912 to about 1932 and
recounts as well time he spent in Australia and Arizona.

Hallet uses "the skinny" at least twice, in a book published decades before
the term went mainstream. It seems significant, however, that the word is
neither defined nor placed within quotes:

P. 287:  "But the elfin corners of Lehua's mouth suggested her gift of
improvisation. Had she really given me the skinny of an actual legend from
the archives of her race, or was she wafting me the native poetry of her

P. 332:  "We lit our pipes.  I gave him the skinny of a yarn I had written
of this western country. It was called 'The Snap of the Cap,' and had to do
with a man who had fallen in love with a girl out here somewhere in these

What may also be significant is that both exx. are "assigned" to the period
after 1928, when Hallet accompanied Navy Secretary Curtis Wilbur to Pearl
Harbor in the battleship _California_. (He met "Lehua" on Oahu.) It is thus
possible that Hallet picked up a word that already had notable currency in
the Navy, or at least in _California_.  That could explain the absence of
definition or quotation marks.

But so could a lot of things.

The ex. on p. 287 is easily interpreted as "the real truth," as is now
common, but the second ex. is not; there "the skinny" seems to mean, more
precisely, the (bare?) basic facts.  Get it? "Skin-ny."   (Don't blame me;
I didn't make the usage up.)

Of course, the pre-existing naval currency of "Skinny"  at Annapolis as
"physics and chemistry" ("hard sciences" as Stephen observes) wouldn't have
hurt the rise of the new meaning.


On Sun, Sep 15, 2019 at 3:54 PM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>

> The earliest discovered exx. of "the skinny," acc. to HDAS, appear in the
> memoir, _The Rolling World_ (Boston:
> On Fri, Aug 30, 2019 at 5:50 PM ADSGarson O'Toole <
> adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>>  Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>> > Garson,  that seems to be the glossary appearing in Lee's "Fag-Ends."
>> >
>> > The book's pub date is 1878, but the copyright is 1877.
>> >
>> > Significantly, even if P. J. Dashiell was still in school in 1877, Lee
>> > alludes to a professor nicknamed "Skinny" on p. 41.
>> Here are some links into HathiTrust plus a Google Books link
>> Fag-Ends From the Naval Academy
>> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015016768346
>> The Last Section - Page 41
>> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015016768346?urlappend=%3Bseq=95
>> A Dictionary (Second page of dictionary which lists skinny) - Page 99
>> https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015016768346?urlappend=%3Bseq=215
>> Fag-Ends From the Naval Academy
>> https://books.google.com/books?id=NtExAQAAMAAJ&
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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