’23 Skidoo’ History & Origins

March 17, 1899 – The Morning Herald (KY), pg. 4

“TWENTY THREE – DID THE SLANG PHRASE ORIGINATE IN DICKENS’ “TALE OF TWO CITIES?”

For some time past there has been going the rounds of the men about town the slang phrase “Twenty-three.” The meaning attached to it is to “move on,” “get out,” “goody-bye, glad you are gone,” “your move” and so on. To the initiated it is used with effect in a jocular manner.

It has only a significance to local men and is not in vogue elsewhere. Such expressions often obtain a national use, as instanced by “rats!” “cheese it,” etc., which were once in use throughout the length and breadth of the land.

Such phrases originated, no one can say when. It is ventured that this expression originated with Charles Dickens in the “Tale of two Cities.” Though the significance is distorted from its first use, it may be traced. The phrase “Twenty-three” is in a sentence in the close of that powerful novel. Sidney Carton, the hero of the novel, goes to the guillotine in place of Charles Darnay, the husband of the woman he loves. The time is during the French Revolution, when prisoners were guillotined by the hundred. The prisoners are beheaded according to their number. Twenty-two has gone and Sidney Carton answers to — Twenty-three. His career is ended and he passes from view. http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/twenty_three_skidoo_myth/

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 October 22, 1899 – George Ade, The Washington Post, pg. 19

“How Slang Is Coined”

“By the way, I have come upon a new piece of slang within the past two months and it has puzzled me. I just heard it from a big newsboy who had a ‘stand’ on a corner. A small boy with several papers under his arm had edged up until he was trespassing on the territory of the other. When the big boy saw the small one he went at him in a threatening manner and said: ‘Here! Here! Twenty-three! Twenty-three!’ The small boy scowled and talked under his breath, but he moved away. A few days after that I saw a street beggar approach a well-dressed man, who might have been a bookmaker or horseman, and try for the unusual ‘touch.’ The man looked at the beggar in cold disgust and said: ‘Aw, twenty-three!’ I could see that the beggar didn’t understand it any better than I did. I happened to meet a man who tries to ‘keep up’ on slang and I asked the meaning of ‘Twenty-three!’ He said it was a signal to clear out, run, get away. In his opinion it came from the English race tracks, twenty-three being the limit on the number of horses allowed to start in one race. I don’t know that twenty-three is the limit. But his theory was that ‘twenty-three’ means that there was no longer any reason for waiting at the post. It was a signal to run, a synonym for the Bowery boy’s ‘On your way!’ Another student of slang said the expression originated in New Orleans at the time an attempt was made to rescue a Mexican embezzler who had been arrested there and was to be taken back to his own country. Several of his friends planned to close in upon the officer and prisoner as they were passing in front of a business block which had a wide corridor running through to another block. They were to separate the officer from the prisoner and then, when one of them shouted ‘Twenty-three,’ the crowd was to scatter in all directions, and the prisoner was to run back through the corridor, on the chance that the officer would be too confused to follow the right man. The plan was tried and it failed, but ‘twenty-three’ came into local use as meaning ‘Get away, quick!’ and in time it spread to other cities. I don’t vouch for either of these explanations. But I do know that ‘twenty-three’ is now a part of the slangy boy’s vocabulary.”
(From “Fables in Slang” author George Ade — ed.) http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/twenty_three_skidoo_myth/

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July 7, 1906 – The National Police Gazette. Vol. VOLUME LXXXIX., Iss. No. 1508.; p. 6 (1 page)

 WHERE DID “23”-THE MEANING OF WHICH IS GET OUTFIRST ORIGINATE?

There are a Lot of People Who Lay Claim to the Latest Slang Term of the Day. THE INTERPRETATION OF IT IS “SKIDDOO,” OF COURSE But its Origin is Shrouded in Mystery, and it May be that “Police Gazette” Readers Can Throw Some Light on the Subject. http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/twenty_three_skidoo_myth/

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 1912 – British Wreck Commissioner’s Titanic Inquiry, Testimony of Charles Joughin, Examined by Mr.Cotter:

6341. Then was it that watertight door, which you see on the plan is in the alleyway, which is in front of your room?
– I am not sure, but I think it is No. 23 door.

6342. I do not know their numbers, but was it the one just forward of your room?
– Yes, in the alleyway.

6343. And you actually saw them doing that?
– Yes, they were working on it.

6344. You are quite right; it is No. 23 door?
– We used to call it the skidoo door, on account of the number. That is how I remember the number.

6345. (The Commissioner.) I do not understand that?
– It is an American joke.

6346. Will you explain it?
– I could not explain it, my Lord.

6347. (The Solicitor-General.) At any rate it connects No. 23 with something about skidoo?
– Yes. http://www.titanicinquiry.org/BOTInq/BOTInq06Joughin03.php

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Dave Wilton,  April 29, 2007 – Dave Wilton, Wordorigins.org

While the phrase twenty-three skidoo, meaning to go away, to leave, is associated with 1920s, it is actually somewhat older, dating to the turn of the 20th century. And the constituent element are even somewhat older.

Twenty-three is the oldest portion of the phrase. From the Morning Herald (Kentucky) of 17 March 1899:

For some time past there has been going the rounds of the men about town the slang phrase “Twenty-three.” The meaning attached to it is to “move on,” “get out,” “goody-bye, glad you are gone,” “your move” and so on. To the initiated it is used with effect in a jocular manner.

How twenty three became associated with leaving is uncertain, but the above referenced article claims that it is a reference to Dickens’ 1859 A Tale of Two Cities. At end of the book, the hero, Sydney Carton, is going to the guillotine and is the twenty-third in line. The knitting-women watching the executions count off as each victim is beheaded:

Crash!—A head is held up, and the knitting-women who scarcely lifted their eyes to look at it a moment ago when it could think and speak, count One.
A second tumbril empties and moves on; the third comes up. Crash!—And the knitting-women, never faltering or pausing in their work, count Two.
[…]
She goes next before him—is gone; the knitting-women count Twenty-Two.
[…]
The murmuring of many voices, the upturning of many faces, the pressing on of many footsteps in the outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward in a mass, like one great heave of water, all flashes away. Twenty-Three.

Normally, one should be skeptical of such an explanation. But the appearance of the explanation so close to the appearance of the slang term makes it compelling.

Skidoo appears a few years later. The New York Times of 23 June 1901 records a yacht race in which a sloop name Skidoo participated. And the Los Angeles Times of 25 December 1904 has:

Skidoo for you, pal—get a live one.

Skidoo is also of uncertain origin, although many contend that it is a variant of skedaddle.

1906 is the big year for the combined phrase twenty-three skidoo. It appears numerous times in print during this year. This prank phone call is related in the Lincoln Daily Evening News (Nebraska) of 12 June 1906:

Night after night call would come on the heels of call.
“Is this 23?”
“Yes.”
“No, really? Well, skidoo for yours.”

And the Washington Post of 11 October 1906 has:

The members of the Thirteenth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry claim the credit for putting the “23 skidoo” sign on the hoodo generally supposed to follow the number “13.”

A common tale told about the origin is that it derives from the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street in New York. The odd shape of the building created updrafts that would lift women’s skirts as they walked past. Groups of young men would congregate to watch and would be chased off by police officers with the phrase twenty-three skidoo. A neat story, but one without a shred of evidence to support it. Not to mention that the building wasn’t even completed until 1902, after twenty-three was well established in the slang lexicon. http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/more/557/

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June 29, 2008 – Ben Zimmer, The Boston Globe

Skadoosh!

The word on the lips of America’s movie-going youth is “skadoosh,” thanks to the new animated comedy “Kung Fu Panda.” It’s a sublimely silly word uttered by Po the Panda, as voiced by Jack Black, and Entertainment Weekly and The Washington Post have already anointed it “the word of the summer.”

It’s hard to say whether “skadoosh” (also frequently spelled “skidoosh”) will have the staying power of such classic cinematic coinages as “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from “Mary Poppins” or “schwing” from “Wayne’s World,” but it does have some auspicious forces working in its favor. Among them are historical resonances going all the way back to the Civil War era.

Fans of Jack Black’s oeuvre are already familiar with his inventive wordplay. When he first gained attention as one half of the satirical rock duo Tenacious D, he was prone to such neologisms as “inspirado,” a zingier version of “inspiration.” Determined to find out the inspirado behind “skadoosh,” I turned to “Kung Fu Panda” co-director Mark Osborne (who, as it happens, I’ve known since high school).

“Skadoosh” appears in an explosive action scene at the end of the movie, but it originated as a casual bit of improvisation that Jack Black threw in during an informal read-through of the sequence. As the film was being edited, Osborne made sure that the unscripted exclamation was included in the scene, and the filmmakers found that it worked perfectly.

When “Kung Fu Panda” was first screened to the film crew, the unexpected “skadoosh” was a big hit, and the next day effects supervisor Alex Parkinson showed up with a custom-made “skadoosh” T-shirt. (Jack Black has taken to wearing a similar T-shirt on the promotional tour for the movie.) The studio, DreamWorks, also knew it was on to something. “Skadoosh” was given a prominent place in the trailer for the movie, though it was grafted on to a different scene to avoid giving away its climactic moment.

The sound of “skadoosh” evokes various other fanciful coinages, such as “squadoosh,” a pseudo-Italianism meaning “nothing, zilch, squat,” favored by ESPN poker commentator Norm Chad, among others. But according to Osborne, Jack Black found his inspirado in an older bit of slang: “23 skidoo,” a perplexing phrase that hit it big a century ago, roughly meaning “let’s get a move on.”

The origin of both the “23” and “skidoo” elements are shrouded in mystery. There’s an old story about groups of men watching women’s skirts blow up in front of New York’s Flatiron Building on 23rd Street, with local constables breaking up the voyeuristic throngs by yelling “23 skidoo!” That story has been firmly debunked by word sleuth Barry Popik, who has traced the “23” slang (sans “skidoo”) back to 1899, three years before the Flatiron Building was even built.

“Skidoo” showed up on the scene a bit later, making its earliest known appearance in a 1904 Washington Post article quoting a New York chorus girl: ” ‘Now, that’s enough,’ interposed Maude, ‘let’s skidoo.’ And they skidooed with smiles and backward glances.” By 1906, “23” had come together with “skidoo” to form the magical phrase. Countless songwriters of the day used it as lyrical fodder. “Skid-oo, skid-oo, You hear it ev’rywhere, Skid-oo, skid-oo, It seems to be in the air,” one song went.

Not everyone was pleased with the ubiquitous new buzzword. A writer on women’s propriety warned in a 1906 issue of the North American Review that use of “skidoo” was hardly ladylike. “It is a mere substitute for ‘skedaddle,’ itself of American origin and now regarded by common assent as egregiously vulgar.”

Etymologists agree that “skidoo” owes its roots to “skedaddle,” most likely via another jocular variant, “scadoodle.” The vogue for “skedaddle” first hit during the Civil War, when retreating troops were often described as skedaddling. It actually turns up more than a year before the outbreak of hostilities: a line of dialogue in the Jan. 12, 1860, edition of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania’s The Agitator reads, “You’d oughter seen that gang skedaddle.”

The historical trail runs cold with “skedaddle,” since no one is exactly sure where it might have come from. Noah Webster supposed it was brought by Swedish or Danish immigrants to the Upper Midwest, while others have connected it to a dialectal word from northern England or Scotland meaning “spill, scatter.” The Scottish language probably played a vital role in the development of “skedaddle,” “scadoodle,” and “skidoo,” since regional American speech has a number of Scottish-derived verbs for hurried motion starting with the “sk-” sound, like “scoot,” “scooch,” and “skoosh.”

“Skadoosh” just might have legs because it resonates with this grand American tradition of funny-sounding words for sudden, rushing movement. And the second syllable caps it off with a satisfying onomatopoetic “whoosh.” Sometimes a momentary ad-lib can encompass a world of linguistic history.  http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/06/29/skadoosh/?page=1

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’23 Skidoo’ Origin Theories

 Dorgan, Thomas A. (“TAD”)

Cartoonist “TAD”  (Thomas A. Dorgan) was credited in his obituary in The New York Times  in 1929, as being the “First to say ‘Twenty-three, Skidoo.'” http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase)

“‘Tad,’ Cartoonist, Dies In His Sleep. Thomas A. Dorgan, Famous For His ‘Indoor Sports,’ Victim of Heart Disease. Was A Shut-In For Years. Worked Cheerfully at Home in Great Neck on Drawings That Amused Countless Thousands.” The New York Times, May 3, 1929 p. 21: “His slangy breeziness won immediate circulation. It was he who first said ‘Twenty-three, Skidoo,’ and ‘Yes, we have no bananas,’ ‘apple sauce’ and ‘solid ivory.’ Other expressions that are now part of the American vernacular include ‘cake-eater,’ ‘drug-store cowboy,’ ‘storm and strife,’ ‘Dumb Dora,’ ‘dumb-bell,’ ‘finale hopper,’ ‘Benny’ for hat and ‘dogs’ for shoes.” http://www.23skidoo.us/

 Flatiron Building

Perhaps the most widely known possible source of the expression derives from the area around the triangular-shaped Flatiron Building at Madison Square in New york City. The building is located on 23rd Street at the intersection of Fifth avenue and Braodway, and due to the complex geography of the intersection winds swirl around the building. In the Roaring Twenties groups of men would gather to watch women walking by have their skirts blown up, revealing ankles which were seldom seen in public at that time. Local constables, breaking up these groups of men, were said to be “giving them the 23 Skidoo”.   The slang expression “23” was already in use at that time, and Webster’s New World Dictionary derives skiddoo  (with two d’s) as probably from skedaddle, meaning “to leave”, with an imperative sense. The Flatiron Building was completed in 1902, and three years earlier, in 1899, popular slang author George Ade explained the meaning of the new slang “twenty-three” in The Washington Post dated October 22. http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase)

 Gambling

One suggestion that carries more weight than the others was pointed out to me by Jonathon Green, editor of Chambers Slang Dictionary — Will Irwin’s Confessions of a Con Man of 1909. Irwin described a gambling game using eight dice. He called it cloth, the name coming from a sheet of green felt that was marked off in squares numbered eight to forty-eight, each giving the result of a throw. The key point is that square 23 was marked lose. Will Irwin commented, “I don’t need to say that ‘twenty-three’, as slang, comes from this game. The circus used it for years before it was ever heard on Broadway.” To be strict about it, it’s not proof of anything as it stands, because we have only this one reference to the game and to the meaning of the number, but on the face of it, it’s a plausible origin.  http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-twe2.htm

 Horse Racing

An article in the June 26, 1906 New York American  credits the phrase to one Patsey Marlson, then a former jockey hauled into court on a misdemeanor charge. At his hearing, Marlson is asked by the judge how the expression came about. He explains that when he was a jockey, he worked at a track which only had room for 22 horses to start in a line. If a 23rd horse was added, the long shot would be lined up behind the 22 horses on the front line. Apparently, “23 skidoo” implied that if the horse in the back was to have any chance of winning, it would really have to run very hard. Marlson also says in the article that the expression was originally “23, skidoo for you.” http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase)

 Jump Rope Rhyme

Here’s a version that was published in 1909:

Butterfly, butterfly turn around
Butterfly, butterfly touch the ground
Butterfly, butterfly show your shoe
Butterfly, butterfly twenty three to do!

The interesting thing here is the phrase “twenty three to do.” In the 1920s, “twenty three skidoo” was popular slang term for “to leave quickly,” as the jumper presumably did at that point in the rhyme. Now, exactly where that phrase came from is one of the great mysteries of American slang. There are plenty of theories out there, and some of them are charming, but none are particularly convincing. If this version of the rhyme does date to much earlier than 1909 (and for a rhyme to be published when it was brand new would be fairly unusual), that would strongly suggest that “twenty three skidoo” was based on a mispronunciation of “twenty three to do.” Of course, this begs the question of what the phrase “twenty three to do” was all about (if, in fact, it pre-dated “twenty three skidoo” in the first place). In 1926, a book was published listing the rhyme as ending with Old Woman, twenty three skidoo!. By then, going around saying “23 skidoo” as often as possible was a national craze. Could it have started with “23” being a cue to get out during a jump rope rhyme? http://www.playgroundjungle.com/2009/12/teddy-bear-teddy-bear-long-history-of.html

 Morse Code

It is said that 23  was an old Morse code signal used by telegraph operators to mean “away with you. (The same story accounts for 30  as “end of transmission”, a code still used by modern journalists, who place it at the end of articles as a sign to editors. However, the Western Union 92 code , which is the source of 30  and other numbers like 73  and 88  still used in Amateur radio, lists 23  as “all stations copy”.) http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase)

The late etymologist Eric Partridge reported that one of his correspondents felt that the phrase might have had its roots in old telegraphers’ code, where common phrases were replaced by numbers. In this code, “30” sent in Morse code meant “end of transmission” (a notation still used by journalists to signal the end of a story), “73” meant “best regards” (still very much in use by amateur radio operators), and “23” meant “away with you!” http://www.word-detective.com/020798.html#skidoo

Eric Partridge suggested it might be a hangover from the slang of telegraphers, who used numerical codes as abbreviations of common expressions; 30 was “end of message”, for example, which American journalists still on occasion put at the end of pieces, though the rationale for doing so has long since passed. It is said that 23 meant something like “go away!”. Sadly for the ingenious idea, code dictionaries of the period do not use 23 in any way that could be turned into the slang sense.  http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-twe2.htm

 Prison Break

The term may have originated in the West, during a prison break. The prisoners agreed that the signal for the escape would be a shout of “23 skidoo,” upon which they would scatter, hoping that a few men escaped in the subsequent confusion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/23_skidoo_(phrase)

 ‘Skedaddle’

Etymologists agree that “skidoo” owes its roots to “skedaddle,” most likely via another jocular variant, “scadoodle.” The vogue for “skedaddle” first hit during the Civil War, when retreating troops were often described as skedaddling. It actually turns up more than a year before the outbreak of hostilities: a line of dialogue in the Jan. 12, 1860, edition of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania’s The Agitator reads, “You’d oughter seen that gang skedaddle.”  The historical trail runs cold with “skedaddle,” since no one is exactly sure where it might have come from. Noah Webster supposed it was brought by Swedish or Danish immigrants to the Upper Midwest, while others have connected it to a dialectal word from northern England or Scotland meaning “spill, scatter.” The Scottish language probably played a vital role in the development of “skedaddle,” “scadoodle,” and “skidoo,” since regional American speech has a number of Scottish-derived verbs for hurried motion starting with the “sk-” sound, like “scoot,” “scooch,” and “skoosh.”  http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2008/06/29/skadoosh/?page=1

A puzzling fact that doesn’t fit the skedaddle origin is that a barque called Skidoo was reported as arriving in New York from Norway in May 1872 and that a yacht of the same name took part in races off New York from the late 1870s into the early 1900s. Perhaps the word had a meaning now lost to us? http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-twe2.htm

 Skidoo, California

1. An early 1900s Death Valley town had 23 saloons (many basically tents). A visit to all, going 23 skidoo, meant having a really good time. http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase) 

2. Death Valley National Park Service interpreters have sometimes given as an explanation that the early 1900s mining town of  Skidoo, California required that a water line be dug from the source of water on Telescope Peak to the town – a distance of 23 miles. Most thought it would be easy, but the immensely hard rock along the course made it very difficult; it was eventually accomplished by a determined engineer. The term “23 Skidoo” was then used as a statement of irony, something like “duck soup”: a reference to something ‘apparently easy,’ but actually very difficult. http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase)

3. John L. Ramsey and John A. Thompson wandered around  Emigrant Springs in January 1906 and became famous for the discovery of the Skidoo ledge of gold ore.  They staked 30 claims along the great mother lode and named it the Gold Eagle.  By March, the Rhyolite Herald & Shorty Harris with a sack of ore samples, were doing their part to let the world know what was going on in the Wild Rose   District . George Ottis and E. Oscar Hart came along and bought a sixty-day option for 23 of the original 30 claims.  Nevada mining magnate Bob Montgomery came to town and managed to get his hands on those twenty three.  The town of Skidoo soon built up around the Skidoo Mining Company. Eventually as much as $1,500,000 was pulled from the entire area.

 There are several stories as to how “The Famous Skidoo” mine got it’s name.  A  popular saying  of the day,  “23 Skidoo,”  probably played a part in it.  The March 1, 1907  Rhyolite Herald attributed the name to Bob Montgomery and his associates who bought the original properties of the Skidoo Mines Company which consisted of twenty three claims.  After surveying and laying out the site,  they soon realized that, like their mining claims, their new town consisted of  twenty three blocks: “23 claims, 23 city blocks — 23 Skidoo.”  It sounded good, so they stuck with it.  A proposal was soon made  to change the original  Hovick Post Office ( after part manager and owner of the Skidoo mine) to the official name of Skidoo. The United States Post Office initially rejected the name, saying it was inappropriate slang.   By March 31, 1907 ,  it was announced that mail addressed to Skidoo would be delivered to the “richest gold camp in the desert and on earth.”

In his book, Gold,  Craig MacDonald, tells the naming story a bit differently. According to MacDonald, as the camp surrounding the Skidoo Mines grew to 1500 residents, the miners gathered around to decide upon an appropriate name.  One prospector suggested that the camp be called Montgomery after Bob himself, who was responsible for  putting Inyo County on the map of the world with his mining ventures.  Everyone agreed this was a fine name, but Bob Montgomery was a modest man and did not want his name used.  This put a damper on things, until someone reminded them of  the man who traveled the 23 miles to bring water twice a week  from a spring at Telescope Peak. “Skidoo” Stewart Skidoovich, received the honor of having the new town named after him, and the rest is history….or perhaps not…..  http://www.explorehistoricalif.com/twenty-three%20skidoo.html

By the end of August, 1906 a town site, variously designated as Montgomery and later Hoveck, was platted just east of the Skidoo Mine, which was functioning as the center of milling operations. A post office opened under the name of “Hoveck.” However, neither “Montgomery” nor “Hoveck” captured the imagination of the townspeople, and the town site and post office were renamed named “Skidoo” in 1907. It was initially named “23 Skidoo,” an early 20th-century slang term meaning “take off.” However the postal service refused to accept “23” as part of the name. http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ca-skidoo2.html

 A Tale of Two Cities / The Only Way

It may have come from a parody of Henry Miller’s highly-regarded stage presentation of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.  Miller’s 1899 production, entitled “The Only Way,” was staged at the Herald Square Theatre. The final scene of the play portrays a series of executions at a guillotine. As each person is beheaded, an old woman counts. When Sydney Carton, the protagonist of the story, is beheaded, the old woman calls out “Twenty-three!” The grisly scene was remarkable for its time, but it soon became the subject for parody, and the phrase “Twenty-three, skidoo!” was used by Broadway comedians to parody this moment. This seems likely to be an instance of comedians using an already-popular slang juxtaposed against a well-known dramatic moment for the resulting comic effect, and not an indication of coinage, however it’s quite possible that the theatrical usage popularized the expression, or made it more widely known.  http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase)

 The Only Way was a stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities by two Irish clergymen, Freeman Wills and Frederick Langbridge. In the last act, it is claimed, a woman knitting at the guillotine counted off the victims as they were executed and that the hero Sydney Carton was the twenty-third, that number being the final words of the play. The implication is that theatre-goers adopted 23 as a synonym for going home, from where it spread and changed its meaning. The big problem with this much-quoted origin that the play was first performed — at the Lyceum Theatre, London — in February 1899; it is improbable in the extreme in the days before mass communications that only a few months later the saying could have reached Chicago.  http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-twe2.htm

 Van, Billy B.

In The Literature of Slang (p. 38), W.J. Burke claims that the term “skidoo” was coined in 1906 by the musical comedy star Billy B. Van, citing an article in the Indianapolis Morning Star, March 31, 1906. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/23_skidoo_(phrase)

 Vaudeville (Mike Donlin & Tom Lewis)

Another source says that baseball player Mike Donlin and comedian Tom Lewis created the expression as part of their vaudeville act.  “Lewis sat on Mike’s lap and acted as a dummy to Mike’s ventriloquist. The pair first came up with the expression ‘twenty-three skidoo.'”  -Mansch, Larry D. (1998). Rube Marquard: The Life & Times of a Baseball Hall of Famer. McFarland and Company.  p. 96 http://www.reference.com/browse/23_skidoo_(phrase)

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 What we do know is that, by 1906 (a few years earlier according to some anecdotal reports), the two halves of the phrase had been conjoined to make the even more expressive doubled epithet:  “Fire companies are having troubles of their own in getting music for the next biennial parade. One company negotiating with a band out of town has been informed that if it wants that particular brand of music it will have to pay $6 per man for the ordinary musicians and $12 for the leader for the day with expenses. If the engine company is independent enough it will wire to the band “23 skidoo” according to the members’ idea in the matter.” -New Brunswick Daily Times, 21 Mar. 1906.  http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-twe2.htm

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Published on January 5, 2011 at 11:12 am  Leave a Comment  

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