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Thanks for your understanding.
Chris -- 2018-04-11
A “skid road” was a trackway laid with (sometimes greased) peeled logs or timbers along which heavy loads could be skidded. Logging operations typically used such roads. Quickly-built logging shacks would pop up along the skid roads to house the forestry workers. By 1920, “skid road” had been turned into a metaphor for a less-than-posh part of town. By 1940, people who had lost track of the original metaphor were calling these decrepit stretches of houses “skid rows.”
The transition from “road” to “row” is eggcornish. But what struck me today is that there may a stealth-eggcorn in “skid row.” The verb “to skid,” which initially meant to put a prop under something, gradually took on the meaning of “slipping.” It was commonly applied to a wheel that had stopped going in the direction of its rotation, as in “the wagon wheels skidded into the ditch.” By the early twentieth century, the verb had picked up an additional moral sense—”skidding” came to mean “erring, failing” as in “she skidded from the path her parents had set her on.” So when people say “skid row,” do they think it means a place (a “row”) where unfortunates live who have skidded off an economic or moral path? As though the sense of “skid row” was “skidders row?”
Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.
So when people say “skid row,” do they think it means a place (a “row”) where unfortunates live who have skidded off an economic or moral path?
That’s exactly the imagery it’s always had for me and this sense of squalor may be reinforced by the informal use of skid marks to denote soiled underwear or doggy marks on a carpet for example.