The Skinny
Please submit the origin of the phrase
What's the skinny on that?
Frank Pierce
I don't know but I can give you an expansion of the expression, one commonly used in the US Navy (and perhaps other services), i.e., "the straight skinny" meaning absolutely unadulterated truth, if any such thing exists.

It was usually used in conjunction with:

"This is no s***. It's the straight skinny."

This speaks to the denotaion, that "the skinny" is the reality rather than the fiction (or hype), as with "the inside dope." "Hyperbole" also suggests extra (in addition to false, as with "exagerate").

The contrast with a, perhaps adulterated cover story or otherwise less genuine alternative version, suggests that embellished rendering is, in some sense, fat with falsehoods and hence that the reality (or low down) is skinny (i.e., skinnier).

These semantics are debatable and no actual etymology has yet come to light.

Both "transgression" and "evil" derive from concepts of The Bad involving an excess or indulgence*. Consider the focal meaning of "gross." Indeed, the notion of thin as having an association with virtue is apparent in the phrase "straight and narrow" which refers to a righteous path of conduct with little tolerance deviance. Considering the commonality of use of "skinny" (used in the relevant sense of truth) in the phrase, "the straight skinny," I'd offer the hypothesis that "straight skinny" derives rather directly from the phrase "straight and narrow."

* the so-called "problem of evil" in the metaphysics of some systems of thought (the Neo-Platonists come to mind) have led to precisely the inverse notion, that evil is a privation.

Webster's puts the etymology at about 25 years prior, but I think it worthwhile to note a theory that TKapoentje proposed off-line, that it's related to "skinny dipping" and refers to a narrative denuded of falsehoods, since the true origins of both are rather murky and this might lend an important clue should one look deeper into this.
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