LINGUIST List 11.1819

Tue Aug 29 2000

Qs: Etymology of "Skivvies",Survey on Spanish

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  1. Douglas G. Wilson, Etymology of the word "Skivvies"
  2. Leo Ferres, Survey on the Aspect of Agency in Spanish

Message 1: Etymology of the word "Skivvies"

Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 06:38:30 -0400
From: Douglas G. Wilson <>
Subject: Etymology of the word "Skivvies"

I am researching the etymology and connections of the word 
'skivvies'/'skivvy' = 'underwear'.

I have consulted the major dictionaries (none of which gives even a 
speculative etymology) and conventional reference books, and I've 
searched the Web. I have seen various spellings: 'scivey', 'skibbies', etc.

This word is perhaps more interesting than one might think initially. 
Can anyone help me?

In particular, has there been a thorough examination of this word in the 
published literature?

The word 'skivvies' in the sense '(naval) underwear' goes back at least 
to 1927 in the US.

'Skivvy' is also used for 'pullover' (shirt/sweater), particularly in 

The singular noun 'skivvy' apparently = 'T-shirt' in the US Navy.

Possible connections/conflations include:

'skivvy' = 'flunky' ('menial laborer') [mostly non-US, ca. 1900 to date]
'Skib'/'Skibby' = 'Jap[anese]' [derogatory US military slang, WW II]
'skibby'/'skippy' = 'Asian prostitute' [US slang, from early 1900's]
'skippy'/'skibby' = '[effeminate] homosexual [man]' [US slang]
'[get] the skivvy on ...' = '[get] the skinny on ...' = '[get] the facts 
on ...' [US slang]
'skivvy girl' = ? [US military slang, Vietnam]
'skivvy house' = 'whorehouse' [US military slang]
'skivvy niners' = US Air Force intelligence unit personnel (including 
linguists!) [USAF slang]
'skivvies' = 'sandals'/'slippers' (?= 'scuffies') [US slang]
etc., etc.

I would be interested in information on any of these items and any 
similar ones.

At least one possible connection outside the English language suggests 

Specific questions:

(1) Is there (or was there ever) a slang expression 'skivvy' meaning 
something like 'swabby' or 'sailor'?

(2) Was "Skivvies" ever *used* as a trademark (registered or not) for 
underwear? If so, when, where, and by whom?

I will present a summary.

- Doug Wilson
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Message 2: Survey on the Aspect of Agency in Spanish

Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 16:40:20 -0300
From: Leo Ferres <>
Subject: Survey on the Aspect of Agency in Spanish

Dear fellow linguists;

I am currently working on a particular aspect of agency and I need native
speakers of Spanish to provide some judgements as to the interpretation of
some sentences. Those of you who are interested in doing this, please go to The survey takes around
3 (three) minutes to complete. Thank you very much for your time.

Best, Leo Ferres

- --------------------------------------------------------------------
Leo Ferres
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies
Carleton University
2214 Dunton tower
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6 - CANADA
Email address:
Phone: ++ 1 (613) 520-2600 extension 7026
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