Ozay, dot-nose, kangamangus

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The latest episode of Comedy Central's "Sarah Silverman Program" (first aired Dec. 4, check your local listings for repeats) is sure to warm the hearts of neologophiles. Here's the blurb:

In this week's episode, "Kangamangus," Sarah strives to leave a legacy by creating a popular slang word, "Ozay." While she struggles to get others interested, Brian effortlessly succeeds in the same pursuit with his word, "Dot-nose." Also, British actor, Matt Berry, ("The IT Crowd") makes a guest appearance.

Matt Berry, awesomely enough, plays the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, who arrives to tell Brian that dot-nose is entering the dictionary, complete with a Word Induction Ceremony. Video clips after the jump.

In the first clip, the coiner of the word booyah inspires Sarah to come up with her own neologism.

Clip 2: After overcoming writer's block through song, Sarah creates the word ozay, while Brian mocks his friend Steve by coining dot-nose.

Clip 3: Officer Jay explains how "slang is destroying our society," while Brian's coinage of dot-nose begins catching on.

Clip 4: Sarah discovers how the new slang is getting used on the street and is introduced to kangamangus. (At the end of the clip you can see a bit of the OED Word Induction Ceremony for dot-nose.)

Bonus clip: The show's writers and actors talk about the origins of ozay (from the hometown high school of Sarah and Laura Silverman in Bedford, New Hampshire) and dot-nose (a writers' room joke).

The Word Induction Ceremony wonderfully crystallizes popular perceptions about how words get into dictionaries. For more on these (mis)perceptions, see my June 2006 post "Go and synergize no more."

Update: On the American Dialect Society mailing list, Larry Horn recounts the ending of the episode (not captured in the above video clips)…

[T]he life-threatening properties of slang are revealed when violence escalates after a thug, having been insulted by being called "dotnose", begins to shoot up the solemn Oxford English Dictionary Word Induction Ceremony at which "dotnose" is in fact being inducted into the Oxford English Dictionary. Sarah pushes her friend Brian, the coiner of the word, out of harm's way and the bullet meant for him instead hits the pompous British lexicographer representing the OED, but he is saved when the bullet enters the pocket OED he has in his vest pocket (no doubt alluding to all those movies in which shootees are saved from a fatal bullet by their vest-pocket Bible).

Quote of the Year candidate, from the end of the show, with sentimental music roiling up in the background:

'My name is Sarah Silverman, and I learned something today. I learned that slang can be dangerous and that sticks and stones *can* break your bones and that words *can* ever [sic] hurt you. Tonight, dotnose became a word in our dictionary. Well, let's not forget that once, so did "holocaust" and "diarrhea". One of them happened. And one of them continues to happen".'

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6 Comments »

  1. Tayloj said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 1:10 pm

    I didn't watch all the clips, so maybe this was explained, but “kangamangus” is a common mis-pronunciation of “Kancamagus”, which, among other things, is the name of a highway in northern New Hampshire.

  2. Benjamin Zimmer said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

    Well, that would make sense, since Sarah Silverman is from New Hampshire and in the behind-the-scenes clip they explain ozay as hyperlocal slang from her sister Laura's high school clique.

  3. Cath the Canberra Cook said,

    December 10, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

    Douchewibbler may be my new favourite word.

  4. Paul Vato said,

    February 5, 2009 @ 5:52 pm

    Is "Vato" in the dictionary?

  5. John Cowan said,

    October 6, 2009 @ 1:36 pm

    This post is now cited in the September 2009 OED updates . (The rest of the URL depends on your

  6. John Cowan said,

    October 6, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

    Arrgh. Ignore the last sentence fragment, please.

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