Skinny Minnie

by Joanne Mason on July 12, 2013

My cat has been overweight for some time now.  But at her recent vet appointment, we learned that her new diet is working.  Brushing her that night, I said to her, “Before we know it, you’ll be a skinny Minnie.”

Wait – a what?  I never hear this term nowadays.  It’s something my parents used to say and I’m sure that’s how I learned it.  But it’s not something I’d say readily and I wondered where it had been lodged in my brain.

The phrase skinny Minnie refers to an exceptionally thin woman.

Example 1

We’re worried about Jessica’s new diet.  She’s becoming a skinny Minnie and doesn’t have much energy lately.

Example 2

There’s so much stuff packed into the antique shop.  You have to be a skinny Minnie just to look around.

I didn’t find much on the origin of this skinny Minnie.  But I did learn about a 1958 song with this title by Bill Haley and His Comets:

Here are some sample lyrics:

Well, slightly slimmer than a fishing pole

She’s one half rock and the half roll

Well, dig that chick from either side

And man, you’ll yell, “Where did she hide?”

Skinny Minnie, she ain’t skinny

She’s tall, that’s all

According to Song-database.com, “Skinny Minnie” peaked at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, so perhaps the phrase started as late-1950s American teenage slang. 

Over 50 years later, I have to wonder whether a song with this theme would even be recorded in America, especially with concerns about weight and eating disorders. The term popped up last fall when New York retailer Barney’s gave Disney’s Minnie Mouse a makeover.  The advertising campaign drew criticism for its depictions of a garishly thin Minnie who, according to some observers, was sending the wrong message about body image.

What do you think?  Do you hear the phrase skinny Minnie often?  If someone called you a skinny Minnie, would you take it as a compliment? 

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