April 25, 2007


skosh n. [skohsh] "a little, a small amount; frequently used adverbially [as] in the expression "a skosh [more room]," "slightly," "somewhat."OED Online.

Say skosh with a long o, as in gauche [gohsh].

U.S. slang, from the Japanese word sukoshi, meaning a little, somewhat.OED Online.

Skosh comes from the World War II military experience, making its first print appearance in A Dictionary of Forces’ Slang, 1939-45 by Eric Partridge with Wilfred Granville and Frank Roberts. London: Secker & Warburg, 1948.

[Along with] everyday greetings, Bamboo English[1] employs sukoshi (‘few, some’) and its antonym takusan[2] (‘plenty’), both of which are forthwith made into two-syllable words, dispensing with the voiceless Japanese "u": [skosh and taksan].1955 Amer. Speech XXX. 44;OED Online.
[1] Bamboo English is a pidgin English. And "a pidgin is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups who do not share a common language, in situations such as trade. Pidgins usually have no native speakers, but are learned as second languages,and they usually have low prestige with respect to other languages. Not all simplified or "broken" forms of language are pidgins. Pidgins have their own norms of usage which must be learned to speak the pidgin well."Bakker, Peter (1994). "Pidgins", in Jacques Arends, Pieter Muysken, Norval Smithh: Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction. 25, 27.Cf. Wikipedia, pidgin.

[2] Sukoshi's antonym—takusan (meaning "plenty")—unfortunately didn't make the trip from Japanese into English. Had the word landed here, the "u" between the "s" and "k," would have—bowing to custom, as is the Japanese wont—been eliminated, and, thus, the word would have been spelled "taksan" and pronounced "tahk-sahn."
Skosh IN USE:

‘Just a skosh,’ he said. When I asked him what he meant he said he had picked the word up in Korea. It means ‘a little bit’. ‘Just a little bit left’ was his meaning.1959 (recorded by Prof. A. L. Hench, Univ. of Virginia) 10 May.

In the ad, a slightly out-of-breath jogger laments middle-
age body bulge and tells how glad he is that a new line of Levis for men is constructed with ‘a skosh more room where I need it’.1977 Detroit Free Press 19 Dec. 4-C/1.
The GSX-R's seat is more comfortable than the Yamaha's thinly padded perch, and its bars are a skosh higher.
1988 Cycle World Sept. 37.
Citations from OED Online
ON taksan

It seems to me the orphaned taksan would bring to the idea of "being big" a weighty, sonic thump (built as it is upon a brace of rhyming, stressed syllables), unlike the lilting, perky iamb of "plenty," which ends on the thin unstressed tone of "eee" in "-ty"—all of this coming from (where else?) the French, in particular from the Middle French plenté, plentee.)OED Online.

Gravel Salesman: "Well, want some?"
Buyer: "Yeah! But not just some. Taksan!"

Yes, I know. The buyer could have said, with just as much punch: "Yeah! But not just some. Lots!" Or "a bunch!"

But I wanted to have some fun with plenty. Just imagine the mischief idling away in plenitude, or plentitude, or
plentiness, or
Or, best yet:

Wow! What a list! Taksan!
A GLOSS on skosh:

"For all my extra work, the boss merely gave his hat a tip, and me a skosh of pocket change."Bloggin' John


Skosh is one of those words that is—I hesitate to say itcute, because as newsprint philosopher Garfield has said: "Cute rots the intellect." Precious is worse. Let's call it appealing or likable or engaging. Maybe catchy. Certainly, welcome. At any rate, skosh deserves wider use.

To do my part, I've decided to bring skosh immediately into the ambit of my current idiolect [3]. In other words: I'm gonna start using skosh, taksan!

[3] idiolect: the linguistic system of
person, differing in some
details from
that of all otherm]
speakers of the
same dialect]]
or language.
OED Online.mm]]


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  1. Bloggin'John: What a terrific job you did on skosh! The end penny packed the punch with the perfect image of what skosh means! Very nice! Annenonymous

  2. AnneNonymous,

    Thanks a taksan for your generous comment.