What’s the origin of “side kick”?

Dear Cecil:

Where did the phrase "side kick" originate?

Cecil replies:

Around the turn of the century, “side kick” was pickpocket slang for the front pocket in a coat or a pair of pants. Some unknown poet of the underworld must have made the connection between the front pocket–the hardest to pick–and an inseparable companion. By 1920 “side kick” meant “friend,” and around 1940 it took on its present meaning, “Gabby Hayes.”

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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