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23 skidoo

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The wind blowing around New York's Flatiron Building may have led to the coining of the slang term "23 skidoo."
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OKLAHOMA CITY – For followers and researchers of synchronicity, the numbers 42 and 23 loom large. And while I have talked about the number 42 here a number of times, it is time to move on to 23.

Why? Well, just before drifting off to sleep last night, the words “Flatiron Building” suddenly and startlingly echoed in my mind. I was vaguely familiar with this name, as being an unusually-shaped building in New York City.

Why? Well, I decided to research the “Flatiron Building” and learned that this famous and iconic building (added to the National Register of Historic Places exactly 35 years ago – tomorrow) gained a lot of attention for the fact that the wind currents blew around the oddly-shaped building that sits on a triangular island-block involving New York’s Fifth Avenue, Broadway and East 22nd Street, with 23rd Street grazing the triangle’s northern (uptown) peak.

Apparently, the hipster phrase “23 skidoo” is linked to the Flatiron Building. According to the Wikipedia entry on the building, the north wind would split around the solid building and with downdrafts and updrafts willy-nilly, the winds were unpredictable. As a result, men would often linger around the building and wait for the wind to blow up the skirts of female passersby. Cops, seeing this, would allegedly tell the men to split, shouting “23 skidoo” at them. Swirling winds. Can one imagine urban dust devils dancing around the Flatiron?

But researching “23 skidoo” further, the slang of “23” was gaining popularity even before the Flatiron Building (originally called the Fuller building) was completed in 1902.

Three years earlier, in 1899, playwright Henry Miller took Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and put it on the stage as The Only Way. It turned out to be very popular during its run on Broadway. And in the play, which takes place during the French Revolution, executions via beheadings by guillotine were taking place. A number of condemned people were waiting to be executed and when the main character, Sydney Carton, is beheaded. An old woman counts out each of the beheaded and when Carton’s turn came, she shouted out “twenty-three!”

This line would later be parodied and may be how it entered the world of slang at the turn of the 20th century. It also had a negative connotation, when skidoo - hoodoo - and "23" were combined. It was considered bad luck.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Within minutes of posting this DDD, I was watching old YouTube footage of The Jon Stewart Show from 1995 - the last episode - when I noticed the Flatiron Building in the opening credits! I was watching it because I was listening to an interview with Buffalo Tom's Bill Janovitz on Dig Me Out. As a result, I wanted to see Buffalo Tom's performance on The Jon Stewart Show because it was the last episode.


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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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