But despite my wife’s insistence, everyone knows it is more properly skinny merrink. I don’t care what Oxford English says!

Oxford Dictionaries Online offers the following for skinnymalinky (and nothing for merrink)

(plural skinnymalinkies)

Scottish A very thin person: that young skinnymalinks above the shop

It goes on to note

Origin: Late 19th century: origin uncertain; a Scottish children's song related the adventures of a thin man known as ‘Skinamalinky Long Leg’.

A version of the lyrics is found at the Online Dictionary of Playground Slang

Skinny Malinky lang legs, umbrella feet

Went to the pictures (cinema) and couldnae find a seat

When the picture (film) started

Skinny Malinky farted

When the picture ended

Skinny Malinky fented (fainted)

However there is no indication of the derivation of the term malinky or malink.

Numerous references are found at wordwizard.com dating back to 1892, but again, no indication of the origin of the term malink.

There are a variety of spellings, including melink, balink and most importantly, marink or merink (with single or double rs) the form from my childhood.

Can anyone help with the source of malink (or even better, merrink)?

  • 2
    I knew it. Scots are weirdos.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 17:07
  • 1
    Well in Ireland we have skinny malinkys not merrinks.
    – k1eran
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 17:32
  • @DanBron No we arny :p
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 19:48

2 Answers 2


The original and older spelling appears to be "skinnymalink". The following extract from the The New York Times suggests that in this case the image of skinniness may have been derived from the that of a chain and hooks (links) that hold a pot over the fire:

  • From skinny malink, in a comic song on the London stage around 1870. The Scottish National Dictionary has skinnymalink(ie), for an emaciated person or animal.

  • Joan Hall of the Dictionary of American Regional English, thinks it is rooted in skinny as the links of a crook, the chain and hook that hold a pot over a fire.

  • "The ma- is probably an infix," she tells me, "a rhythmic syllable added to make the phrase more euphonious."

  • In 1924, Eddie Cantor popularized the song "Skin-a-Ma-Rink," written by Al Dubin, Jimmy McHugh and Irving Mills.

As noted by the Phrase Finder:

  • Thin people inspire almost as many names and jokes as fat people, but the laughter is less mortifying; the names cannot insinuate self-indulgence, they are merely descriptive, as, bag o' bones, bean pole, Bony Moroney (Glasgow)......skinny-flint or skinflint (curiously common in this sense),skinny guts, Skinny Liz, skinny-malink, spaggy oe sparrow.......
  • 1
    +1 for great info and reminding me how much I miss Safire.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 5, 2016 at 19:20

Possibly a Russian connection as "malink" more or less means the little one?

  • 1
    So now Russians are interfering in Scottish language development?
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jul 21, 2017 at 19:21
  • @MetaEd Oh, those Russians!
    – NVZ
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 7:44

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