Move it over just a skosh…
Posted: 24 February 2007 03:09 AM   [ Ignore ]
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The word skosh (sometimes skoshin) as used to mean a very small amount. I’ve heard that it is a Korean word (or derivative of) that means “a little bit”. I have often heard it used on construction sites. I think it was brought into use here in the U.S. by returning Korean War veterans.

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Posted: 24 February 2007 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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JBdivmstr - 24 February 2007 03:09 AM

The word skosh (sometimes skoshin) as used to mean a very small amount. I’ve heard that it is a Korean word (or derivative of) that means “a little bit”. I have often heard it used on construction sites. I think it was brought into use here in the U.S. by returning Korean War veterans.

If KoreanWar vets brought it over they more probably got it from R&R in Japan.  The AHD traces it to Japanese sukoshi.  In the Tokyo dialect, if not others, i and u between unvoiced consonants or, if final, after an unvoiced consonant, are whispered and barely heard.  Sukoshi, to the American ear, would sound like s’kosh’.

Jim probably implied this in his post but, as we have seen earlier, I am implication-blind.

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Posted: 24 February 2007 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The northern English dialect word, scutty, possibly originally meaning either rabbit’s tail or a wren, may or may not be related.  See an archived Wordorigins thread.

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Posted: 24 February 2007 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Here is another reference that I found concerning the import of the word skosh to the US.

MARJA MILLS : Chicago Tribune
The Korean War gave us “brainwash” as well as “skosh,” shortened from a Korean word meaning just a little.
02/25/2002

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Posted: 24 February 2007 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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"Skosh” (rhymes with “gauche") is adopted from Japanese ("sukoshi"). No dictionary disagrees, AFAIK. I don’t think there’s any doubt. Anybody can casually assert anything in a newspaper column or a blog: I don’t think one needs to pay any attention unless there’s evidence presented.

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Posted: 24 February 2007 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I seem to also recall an article by George Will on the same subject and that he also asserts that it is a Korean word, skosh or skoshin. (I’m still looking for that article)

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Posted: 24 February 2007 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Whatever George Will may say, it is definitely a Japanese word, not a Korean one, and it was widely used among foreigners in Japan during the Occupation (before the Korean War).

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Posted: 24 February 2007 05:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Not only is “sukoshi” Japanese, it is extreeemely basic Japanese.

W. E. Griffis, _The Mikado’s Empire_ (1913), p. 363:

//Every foreigner who sojourns in Japan for a week learns “Sukoshi matte” (wait a little), “Ikura?” (how much?), “Doko?” (where?), ....//

A. M. Z. Norman, “Bamboo English”, _American Speech_ 30[1]:44 (1955):

//Bamboo English [English of GI’s in Japan] employs _sukoshi_ ‘few, some’ and its antonym _takusan_ ‘plenty,’ both of which are forthwith made into two-syllable words, dispensing with the voiceless Japanese _u_.//

Norman goes on to predict that most of the adopted Japanese words—including “sukoshi”—will fail to persist in English. But “sukoshi” = “skosh” has made it after all, I guess.

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Posted: 24 February 2007 06:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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And after the Occupation too. It was one of the first words I learned when I arrived in Japan in 1965, and one of the most common in the pidgin-like Japanese-English that we in the American military who were stationed in Japan used in communicating with the Japanese. “O-sake?” “Skoshi, dozo.” We in the military also used it among ourselves all the time - we were as likely to say “skoshi” to each other as “a little”. I remember wondering why we so quickly adopted that Japanese word, but not others.  My guess is that it came in handy when drinking, as the polite and attentive Japanese would continue to offer to fill our glasses, and it had a strong association with fun and cavorting.

As for the mistaken Korean connection—my guess is that it was because Japan was the principal staging area for our forces in the Korean war, and the GI’s in the war would occasionally be allowed a week’s relief to go on R&R in Japan where they hit the bars.

Edit: posted before I read D Wilson’s post above.

[ Edited: 24 February 2007 06:02 PM by westover ]
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Posted: 25 February 2007 02:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I stand corrected...Thank you all for your input and shared knowledge. I think this is a really cool site and will continue to visit as often as time permits. Once again, thanks for the info, y’all!  :-)

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Posted: 26 February 2007 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Just to put a final nail in the coffin, I asked one of our Korean people at work and she knew of no Korean word even vaguely similar to skosh.

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Posted: 03 March 2007 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I concur with Westover.  In my time on Taiwan (long a Japanese colony) and Okinawa in the late 1960s, one constantly heard GIs using the Japanese “sukoshi” in just the way the word is used in Japanese — to mean “a little bit” of something.  And then people would sometimes morph it into an American colloquial construction, as “Just a s’kosh, please.”

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