In the early 20th century, the phrase “23 skidoo” was as popular a fad phrase as we had seen, or have seen since. What did it mean? Its meaning was, as delicately put by the Oxford English Dictionary, “uncertain.” It eventually came to mean “to go away,” usually used as a command.
I write about slang. My first book was about teenage slang of the 20th century.
I did some work on “23 skidoo.” Just as its meaning is unclear, so is its origin. The most popular etymology is that the Flatiron Building, located on 23rd Street, serves as a wind-splitter, which wind blew women’s skirts up, exposing – ANKLES! The women would tell the men to “skidoo” or scram.
There are competing explanations, but in the end – nobody knows. Below are images, mostly postcards, celebrating the Flatiron Building, the wind it split, the lifting of skirts, and the term “23 skidoo.”
“What would those cats on 23rd Street think if they saw what we call up skirt? Short circuit for sure!”
Great. What about the 23 Skidoo postcards?