Last December, an episode of Comedy Central's "Sarah Silverman Program" revolved around fanciful neologisms, culminating in a scene where the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary anoint their latest entries in a "Word Induction Ceremony." The FOX sketch comedy show "MADtv" (now in its final season) imagines the lexicographers of "Webster's Dictionary" announcing new words in a far less celebratory mood. Here (for the time being, at least) is a YouTube clip bringing together the three-part sketch and one outtake:
Since the YouTube clip could very well be taken down soon if FOX gets wind of it, here's a helpful summary from Planet MADtv:
Dictionary Words #1
Glenn (Keegan-Michael Key), and Gene (Crista Flanagan) come up to tell the new changes to Webster’s Dictionary has to add new words that have becomes staples in American speech. These words include ba*donk*a*donk (n): A large and formidable posterior, and but*ter*face (n): A woman who is considered attractive for everything but her face. Along with these new additions will be the shortening of other words like totally to totes (abr), seriously to f*reals, and Laughing out Loud to just LOL (v).
Dictionary Words #2
Webster's Dictionary has now gathered again to update the change in phrase of some words. These words include slut, whore, and bitch (n) which now stands for a term of endearment between 2 drunk girls, served (v) which now means getting busted on by a wicked dancer, and wick*ed (adj) now means extremely awesome. Along with these changes include words like dra*ma (n) which now encompasses even the mundane. Bro is now a verb which means sex between 2 male best friends. The last change is to the word lit*er*al*ly (adj) due to the fact that people now use it to mean everything but literally.
Dictionary Words #3
Gene asks Glenn why they must rape the dictionary so. Glenn answers "because they are Americans". They then announce the following words that have now been removed due to their neglect amongst the US population. These words include sav*ings (n), ab*stain (v), pa*tience (n), rag*time (n), soc*cer (n), De*troit (n), cy*ber*space (n), E.R (the show. NBC), and books (n).
Few if any of the "new" words or senses reluctantly admitted by the fictional lexicographers should be too surprising to anyone paying attention to contemporary American usage — though the suggestion of brew as the past tense of the verb bro was a new one on me.
The sketch derives its humor from the idea that the super-dignified Webster's crowd is being forced to include slangy and nonstandard terms as "proper" (and defining those terms in stuffy dictionary style). But it's not just Urbandictionary that keeps tabs on such usage: scholars of slang pay close attention to the latest colloquialisms and are hardly horrified by them. For instance, you'll find butterface in Cassell's Dictionary of Slang (Jonathon Green, 2005) and badonkadonk in The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Tom Dalzell & Terry Victor, 2006). Badonkadonk even got a long exegesis in the pages of the New York Times in 2006, from a Kelefah Sanneh article about Trace Adkins' surprising country hit, "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk":
Only a few years ago “badonkadonk” was considered strictly hip-hop slang — sly onomatopoeia for the imaginary sound made by a decidedly nonimaginary asset. It was used by the African-American comedian Tracy Morgan, as the single-minded Spoonie Luv, on Comedy Central’s “Crank Yankers.” Missy Elliott played with the pronunciation when she rapped, “Keep your eyes on my ba-bump-ba-bump-bump/And think ya can handle this ga-donk-ga-donk-donk.” And the rapper Twista tried to cash in with a song called “Badunkadunk” in early 2004.
The word was a black thing, and so, went the implicit logic, was the thing it described. The term evoked both black culture and black anatomy: like the concept of race itself, “badonkadonk” was a mishmash of nurture and nature. (Though Spoonie Luv never described it that way.)
For me, the least compelling part of the sketch was the usual litany of complaints about literally. (And not just because they misspelled it as litterally.) "MADtv" has already been there, done that:
That was one in a series of literally sketches starring Nicole Sullivan and Michael McDonald that ran on "MADtv" in 2004 (1, 2, 3, 4). Naturally, the sketches got props from the peevebloggers at Literally, A Web Log. Perhaps the appearance of literally in the dictionary sketch was intended as a bit of peevish nostalgia for devoted fans as the show nears its swansong.