1 2 3 4
If it meant anything at all to Dad, it surely meant "spastic" (i.e., uncoordinated).

Just to be clear, it was originally a medical term, used for those who were crippled by muscle disease. M-W: Main Entry: 2 spastic Function: noun Date: 1896 one suffering from spastic paralysis(etc)

One might point out, especially for the benefit of Lefpondian readers, that The Spastic Society did good works in the UK under that name right up until sometime in the 1990s when it changed its name to "Scope". http://www.scope.org.uk
When I first visited the UK, not all that long before the name change, many shop counters featured a collection box in which you could deposit your spare change for the benefit of the Society and its work on behalf of persons living with cerebral palsy. I took "Spastic Society" as a particularly striking (and, in view of the way the term is used in playground slang, particularly unfortunate) example of the British being willing to use language that might be considered blunt to the point of insensitivity by Americans (cf. "beggar", "cripple" vs "homeless person", "person living with a disability").
I'd put it in a similar category as "retarded" and "moron," labels which were invented for scientific purposes and evolved ... the childish "spastic" and "spazz" I must have heard them both (1960s, Calif.) and considered them the same word.

My recollections (same time and place) are the same.

Roland Hutchinson              Will play viola da gamba for food.

NB mail to my.spamtrap (at) verizon.net is heavily filtered to remove spam.  If your message looks like spam I may not see it.
One might point out, especially for the benefit of Lefpondian readers, that The Spastic Society did good works in the ... shop counters featured a collection box in which you could deposit your spare change for the benefit of the Society

You seem to have been a bit too late to see the original collecting boxes, which were free-standing little boys with appealing faces and leg braces. These were made of papier maché, unlike the Blind Dogs for the Guides (or maybe the RSPCA) one on Paddington Station, which was a real stuffed dead dog with a money-box on its back. (Can some Brit reader please perhaps confirm that I didn't dream all this? I'm beginning to doubt it myself.)
I regret the passing of the seaside collecting boxes for the Lifeboats (bizarrely supported entirely by donations: the USCG's mind must boggle), which were de-activated mines painted red.

But pretty well every smaller shop or pub has a charity box beside the till: it's no sacrifice to drop the change in there if it's only a few pence. My children used to love the ones in which the money visibly did something interesting on the way in.

Mike.
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
If it meant anything at all to Dad, it surely ... (though this sense didn't seem to have much staying power).

Here, FWIW, is the entry in my journal (1956) from a section on the language of Caltech students: SPAZ, n.R ... Caltech slang. The noun was, of course, obsolete only at Caltech, where it had been replaced by the allusive "twitch".

Excellent! If only more college students kept journals like that. Fascinating that "spaz" was already considered obsolete at Caltech as early as 1956. Do you think "spaz" and/or "twitch" might have been mentioned in any Caltech student publications in the '50s?
Ben, would it be possible for you to look up the hip adjective 'street', the one meaning demotic or vernacular ... he's a literate man, see. (Dylan says he 'got no answer' but he doesn't mind if people think he's literate.)

OED2 has the more urban sense from 1967:

street, n.

4.e. attrib. passing into adj., with reference to the streets as thefocus of modern urban life, esp. among the poor and contrasted with polite society. Often with the implication of illegal dealings (esp. drug-trafficking), or the sharp-wittedness needed to survive ‘on the streets’. orig. U.S.

1967 ‘T. WELLS’ Dead by Light of Moon xiii. 126 A street merchant is acon artist who pretends to sell stolen goods.

1967 Trans-Action Apr. 5/1 Street culture exists in every low incomeghetto. It is shared by the hustling elements of the poor, whatever their nationality or color.
(etc.)

The OED's new edition (and the forthcoming volume of the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, including 'S' entries) may take it back further.
This was youth slang from Sparky's generation.

Not. It was a quaint echo of the dim past when I was a boy. Some rumors about the origin and meaning of "23 skidoo" are at .

That site quotes from Evan Morris, "the Word Detective," but fails to include an interesting fact about the expression mentioned on Morris's site at
http://www.word-detective.com/back-v.html#23
"(A)lthough most people who have heard 'twenty-three skiddoo' regard it as the quintessential silly slang of the 'Roaring Twenties,' the phrase actually appeared a bit earlier, just before World War One, so it was relatively old hat as slang goes by the 1920's."
Me too, I don't.

Raymond S. Wise
Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
E-mail: mplsray @ yahoo . com
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
That site quotes from Evan Morris, "the Word Detective," but fails to include an interesting fact about the expression mentioned ... a bit earlier, just before World War One, so it was relatively old hat as slang goes by the 1920's."

Moreover, 23-skidoo is earlier slang than is "old hat". Howja like them apples?

John Dean
Oxford
Here, FWIW, is the entry in my journal (1956) from ... Caltech, where it had been replaced by the allusive "twitch".

Excellent! If only more college students kept journals like that. Fascinating that "spaz" was already considered obsolete at Caltech as early as 1956. Do you think "spaz" and/or "twitch" might have been mentioned in any Caltech student publications in the '50s?

Are we actually sure that "spaz" is a shortening of "spastic"? Because I would have thought a shortening of "spastic" would retain the sibilant whereas "spaz" sounds more like a shortening of "spasm".
John Dean
Oxford
More raw data, tho not on "street". Just had a ... time." (The SMSmessage referred to had been in similar lingo.)

Did you see (The?) White Stripes on the telly last night? Dirty old man that I am these days, I kept watching in the hope that theinept drummer would stand up and give us a better view. Did she?

Dunno: I rather forgot the proceedings were on the box. I'll text the adored brat and get back to you, though I imagine she was several hundred yards away and bobbing about among the other flotsam. But I'd have been with you in spirit, though such circling mammaries grab me more as a circus turn than as a turn-on. (A clergyman friend did, however, email me some thing where you had to spot where the whatever-it-was went, and I duly failed because distracted by the whirling boobs they'd thoughtlessly added just above whatever it was. If it had been legs, I blush to think...)

Mike.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
Are we actually sure that "spaz" is a shortening of "spastic"? Because I would have thought a shortening of "spastic" would retain the sibilant whereas "spaz" sounds more like a shortening of "spasm".

The pronunciation could very well have been influenced by "spasm" or "spasmodic". But the noun "spaz(z)" meaning a physically or socially inept person pretty clearly derives from the noun "spastic", originally referring to a person with spastic paralysis (from 1896) and later taking on the same pejorative sense as "spaz(z)".
Show more