What’s In A Word: Oh, Snap!

I look into the origin of words or phrases that catch my interest

“Oh, snap!” is a sanitized expletive frequently used by the gloriously trashy Joy Turner on the TV show My Name is Earl.

In moments of consternation, shock, surprise, dismay — anytime anyone not subject to network censors would blurt out an “Oh, shit!” — Joy uses “Oh, snap!”

If it weren’t for the prissy censorship of network TV and the seven-dirty-words-you-can’t-say-on-TV, I’m sure Joy would raise the art of profanity to new heights. Blister paint off a wall from fifty feet away, as they say.

I just saw an episode today where new neighbors push Joy’s buttons and she responds with  “Oh, snappity snap! Snap! Snap! Snap!” Joy really snaps!

Joy definitely has a way with words: “Get me up! This mattress is pressing against me like a creepy uncle.” Uttered when a very pregnant Joy gets stuck between the mattress and the bed frame.

And consider this moment of self-reflection:
“You know the kind of woman who could’ve been the next Faith Hill, but somewhere along the way discovered peach daiquiri, put a diaphragm in on her own, and wound up smack dab in the middle of trailer hell raising two kids? Yep, she still manages to look hot and you can bounce a quarter off her butt cause you gotta take of yourself. I mean, come on. Anyway, that’s me. My name is Joy.”

Here’s more Joy:

Joy: I want half that lotto money, Earl.
Earl: Yeah? Well, I wanted a legitimate baby and a wife who didn’t huff paint on Thanksgiving, but I guess life’s full of little disappointments, now ain’t it?

[brandishing a weed whacker at Earl] YOU gotta do something! Like provide for me! I am the queen! You are the worker bee! Your job is to feed me, do me, and die!

Joy: Hey, Darnell, can you see my thong when I bend over?
Crabman: What thong?!
Joy: Perfect!

Joy: You that weird guy that likes to watch me take my underwear off my clothesline?
Philo: One of them, yes, ma’am.

“Flavored vodka is for sissies and pregnant women!”
In one episode I saw, Joy brags she was so responsible during her first pregnancy that she switched to Marlboro Lights.

[playing an IQ game]
“I swear to God, I used to be able to do this drunk when I was little.”

Joy: [standing naked in front of Randy] Randy, do you know where babies come from?
Randy: Yeah, the bottom of that fuzzy lightning bolt.

Joy Turner is one of my all time favorite TV sit-com characters. Jaime Pressly, who plays Joy, is a fantastic comedic actress. She turns a one-dimensional role into a tour de force.

Reminds me of what Don Knotts did with the character of Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show (if that doesn’t date me, I don’t know what will).

Jaime, a former model, won an Emmy in 2007 for her work as Joy Turner in MNIE.

Unfortunately, Pressly’s personal life is in a bit of turmoil these days. In January 2011 she was arrested on a DUI in Santa Monica (where I once lived long ago and briefly describe as part of an earlier post). Following her arrest, she filed for divorce.

I hope, like Earl, she turns her life around. I’d like to see her in other roles, something where she can really stretch her comedic skills. I hope Jaime isn’t typecast as Joy. Don Knotts never did escape from Barney Fife.

Now some of you are saying, “Where have you been?” My Name is Earl ended in 2009 after four seasons.

Yeah, my pop culture IQ is about as high as Earl’s brother Randy’s standard IQ (which is, of course, room temperature).

I only recently started watching reruns of My Name Is Earl, accidentally discovering Earl, Joy, Randy, Crabman and the other dippy denizens of fictional Camden (21st-century America’s version of the idyllic Mayberry in The Andy Griffith Show) when one day my wife broke from her usual line-up of daytime TV programs. Yes, it’s quite a life I’m having.

I can see why I’m so drawn to My Name Is Earl, a comedy about life at the bottom of the barrel. And redemption.

Joy’s trailer park (set built for TV show)

I live in what some (mostly elitist snobs) would call a trailer park, though it’s actually a mobile home park.

Even better, the park’s name is Oasis Mobile Estates. Estates, mind you. Much nicer than the Camden trailer park that’s home to Joy and Crabman and assorted lowlife, the typical stereotypes people have of “trailer park trash.”

We mobile home park residents get no respect.

But many years ago, during the lowest point of my life, I did live in a trailer park much like Joy’s — the Star Trailer Park in Ontario (that’s Ontario, California).

The Star Trailer Park is right behind the Capri Motel on a dreary, disreputable section of Holt Blvd., a street that runs from Despair directly to Degradation. At least that’s how I remember it in the late 1970s, early ’80s.

What a falling off was there: I was a lowlife loser much like Earl, bankrupt in every department.

And like Earl I had an epiphany of sorts. I turned my life around, though it wasn’t a straight line up. Recovery took a lot of time—it’s still going on, in fact.

As Earl discovers as he works through his list of wrongs to right, becoming a better person is a constant struggle to escape the tyranny of self — to turn away from pride, self-will, self-centeredness, all that self crap.

That’s the redemptive power of selflessness, of paying more attention to others than to yourself, of  unconditional love — the message Jesus keeps hammering on. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Today, my wife and I were in the area and we drove through Star Trailer Park, the first time we’ve been back in 27 years.

We could have been on the set for My Name Is Earl.  I almost expected to see Joy on one of the rickety stoops yelling at her kids.

As we slowly drove through the park, Lizzie and I remembered with fondness the many characters who inhabited the Star Trailer Park in our era: Chuck & Linda, Nita—all three bartenders at the infamous Orange Hotel (which burnt down more than 20 years ago, much to the relief of the city fathers); Skin Boy (the most minor of minor criminals: Skin Boy looked menacing, but I suspect he never got so much as a parking ticket — like Fonzie on Happy Days);  irrepressible and hilarious Shorty, the World War II vet, with his gigantic nose and rattling, raspy voice that sounded like crunching gravel; and Dolores, another bartender (Club Tahiti Cocktail Lounge, also long gone — the site of that dive bar where I spent so many hours — and paychecks — is today a parking lot).

With her blonde beehive and skin-tight jeans, Dolores was stuck in her heyday of 1962.  She even drove a turquoise ’62 Ford T-Bird convertible. Dolores would be perfect as Joy’s grandma, circa 1980.

Roseanne Barr as Millie Banks, the crazy manager of Earl’s trailer park. Mean, strict Millie reminds me of Mrs. Hitler, a park manager who tormented me 30 years ago.

We passed the manager’s trailer at the park entrance. In my time, it was the home of the authoritarian and much feared Mr & Mrs Hitler.

That’s what we Star Trailer Park residents called that power-mad couple, whose mission was to relentlessly harass us about every little infraction of park rules.

Mrs. Hitler, an ugly, heavy-set woman who never smiled, was especially intimidating.

I told Lizzie the Hitlers are now managing a trailer park in Hell, and she laughed appreciatively. A pleasant thought, though it can’t be pleasant for the sinners in Hell’s trailer park, condemned to eternity under their regime.

Oh, snap! I’ve strayed far from the subject matter.

I did some research and found that Joy Turner doesn’t have a monopoly on popularizing oh, snap. Far from it.

Long before MNIE, oh, snap was heard on the Dave Chappelle Show and even earlier on In Living Color. From what I learned it’s been used regularly by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

In Edward Champion’s online article The Mysterious Origins of “Oh Snap!” he traces the phrase back 60 years to England and says oh, snap was first popularly used in America by the hip-hop community in the 1980s and 1990s.

Wikipedia doesn’t even mention Joy Turner or My Name Is Earl.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Oh snap

Oh Snap or Aw Snap may refer to:

  • Tracy Morgan, a Saturday Night Live comedian who popularized the phrase
  • Biz Markie, who popularized the phrase with his career-defining hit “Just A Friend”
  • Oh Snap!, an indie rock band from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
  • Oh Snap (EP), an EP by the Christian rock band Philmont
  • Aw, Snap!, an error message in Google Chrome
  • Aw Snap, a game on The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Meanwhile, at Sunnyvale Trailer Park in Novia Scotia…

Ricky and Julian of Canadian TV’s Trailer Park Boys. Perpetually drunk, loaded and unemployed, Ricky and Julian, along with their friend Bubbles, are too busy doing crimes to worry about karma and redemption. The show follows the lovable lowlifes’ misadventures at a Canadian version of  Joy’s trailer park. Click on Ricky & Julian to visit Sunnyvale Trailer Park.

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One thought on “What’s In A Word: Oh, Snap!

  1. Bonnie says:

    Steve,
    I enjoyed this post! Many of the kids at my school use “Oh,snap”

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