I’m reading Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March, a reliable source of linguistic pleasure and discovery, and in chapter 3 the narrator says of his brother:
The family had to lay out the deposit on a uniform, and he began to keep midnight hours, downtown and on the trains, smart and cadet-like in the spanty new uniform.
I’d never heard the phrase “spanty new,” and I thought it might be a misprint, but Google Books has a number of examples, mostly from another Chicago writer, Nelson Algren, e.g.:
There he was, in a spanty-new topcoat ‘n new tan shoes ‘n a green-stripe tie. --The Neon Wilderness
They’d crashed into the light standard of the safety island, bounced over the broken base and slammed sidewise into a billboard offering everyone in Chicago a spanty-new paste-and-paper Nash. --The Man with the Golden Arm
But this is from a recent book, Mogue Doyle’s Down a Road All Rebels Run (2006):
I’d get back, though, I promised myself, on the straight and narrow: back to church of a Sunday and Saturday-night confession - you’d feel so spanty new coming out - when all this trouble would end.
Anybody know anything about it?