What's the provenance of "Oh, snap!"?
October 6, 2004 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Usually I'm pretty "hep" to the "lingo" you kids use, but will someone tell this clueless geezer the provenance of "Oh, snap!"? (sorry, that's it, no more inside)
posted by briank to Writing & Language (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by Hackworth at 12:16 PM on October 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

I've never even ever heard of this one before.....does that make me sadder than briank?
posted by SpaceCadet at 12:32 PM on October 6, 2004

It's an older one; we (in south-side Chicago public schools) said it when I was in grade school over 15 years ago. Seems like it's only recently been assimilated by pop-culture though.
posted by Eamon at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2004

Ah, I see. One of those "late night television" things I hear so much about. Thank you.
posted by briank at 12:35 PM on October 6, 2004

The term is much older than Urban Dictionary might have you believe. For exmaple, there were these books (full of creative insults and "your mom" jokes) called "Snaps" that were first published in 1994.
posted by falconred at 12:48 PM on October 6, 2004

Yeah; I too am thinking that the Urban Dictionary is significantly wrong on this one. Saturday Night Live, my ass.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:54 PM on October 6, 2004

I would guess it goes back at least 5+ years as something you exclaim after a joke or put-down. Sorta like the "Booya! you totally got that guy" of 1999.

Also note: we've been saying it for ages (I got mocked for it here)
posted by mathowie at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2004

I've only noticed it being used with any frequency for the last few months, personally, but I hate not knowing where a catchphrase comes from.
posted by briank at 1:01 PM on October 6, 2004

I think Zoolander helped (re)popularize it a lot. And yeah, matt's right on with the "Booya" idea.
posted by rorycberger at 1:28 PM on October 6, 2004

Snap is also that (revamped) search engine, yo.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:52 PM on October 6, 2004

I don't know the exact origin, but it dates back to at least the 80's, as the "Men on Film" skit on In Living Color used "two snaps up!" when they liked a movie.
posted by mkultra at 1:56 PM on October 6, 2004

I've been wondering about this myself. I've only started hearing it within the last few months or so. I find it really grating and fake for some reason. I think I'm just getting cranky in my not-so-old age. Or, in the words of Abe Simpson:

"I used to be with it, but then they changed what 'it' was. Now, what I'm with isn't it, and what's it seems weird and scary to me."
posted by picea at 2:00 PM on October 6, 2004




posted by holloway at 2:08 PM on October 6, 2004

Like picea said, it's only hit popular culture in the last, say, 6 months. I'd never heard it before, and I'm always listening for stuff like this that bubbles to the surface of language. I wonder what the intial infection vector was for the surge.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:10 PM on October 6, 2004

I have to disagree with the observations that it's emerged in the last 6 months... I've been aware of it for at least 2 years. I think rory might be right in thinking that Zoolander helped mainstream it (although the cool kids were likely saying it prior to that -- much earlier usage notwithstanding).
posted by o2b at 2:24 PM on October 6, 2004

pantsfish is the new snap.
posted by quonsar at 2:56 PM on October 6, 2004

You should probably come get it cause I can't fit my nunchucks in there anymore.
posted by holloway at 3:01 PM on October 6, 2004

is it not a southern thing? I thought I recollected hipsters of my acquaintance beginning to use it after they moved to, respectively, Chapel Hill and New Orleans, circa 1990.
posted by mwhybark at 3:29 PM on October 6, 2004

I heard it first in Zoolander.
posted by gramcracker at 4:20 PM on October 6, 2004

It think it originates from hip hop, perhaps as a cleaner way of saying "oh shit"? The earliest instance I can recall was in Biz Markie's "Just a Friend." This glossary also says it's popular among Africans in Dakar and Paris, which is a maddeningly vague explanation.
posted by cowboy_sally at 5:56 PM on October 6, 2004

i remember saying "oh snap" dozens--if not hundreds of times in 7th grade (1994). it became a pretty popular thing to say in our Ohio private school class.

i've always understood it as a substitute for "Dang."
posted by lotsofno at 7:23 PM on October 6, 2004

More like your snap.

posted by holloway at 8:16 PM on October 6, 2004

part of the entrance of "oh snap" into the general vernacular may be due to the wildly-popular-among-its-demographic Aqua Teen Hunger Force, where the phrase has been used in a goodly portion of the shows.
posted by LimePi at 9:01 PM on October 6, 2004

Does anyone here with an 80's youth remember licking your thumb and bringing it down to your curled fingers whle saying, "Tsssss... take a burn!"

Of course this got bastardized a million ways. Thank the lord for AskMe!
posted by squirrel at 10:07 PM on October 6, 2004

I remember licking a finger and then pretending to touch someone with it, and going "Tssss - burn!" This always happened after someone got burned (ie, today, "served").

The first pop reference I recall hearing was Jon Stewart. But I'd already been using it a while. Last 4th of July me and some friends rode around the Sunset district of SF with some fun snaps, tossing them out the window at unsuspecting people waiting for the bus. This is peurile, I know, but we'd yell "OH SNAP!" and laugh ourselves silly. Haha. Yes, I'm an asshole and going to hell.

I think the expression is generally used to describe the opening of unabashed hostilities after a tense attempt at polite negotiation of some kind, the figure of speech being that something has been stretched too far, and has finally broken.
posted by scarabic at 10:20 PM on October 6, 2004

It seems analagous to the '80s Southern California slang exclamation "moded," meaning, "outmoded."
posted by inksyndicate at 10:39 PM on October 6, 2004

Oh, I thought that was a bastardization of "demoted," as in "you got demoted."
posted by squirrel at 11:35 PM on October 6, 2004

For anyone interested in cultural differences.. the word "Snap" has been used in quite a different way in England for years. It all goes back to the card game, 'Snap', where you shout out 'snap!' when someone puts down the same card as you.

As such, you might say "Oh, Snap!" when someone says that something that also applies to you, or perhaps if someone is wearing the same colour shirt and you go 'Snap!'.
posted by wackybrit at 1:40 AM on October 7, 2004

I remember licking a finger and then pretending to touch someone with it, and going "Tssss - burn!" This always happened after someone got burned (ie, today, "served").


You meant "p4wned", right?
posted by red cell at 1:57 AM on October 7, 2004

In England this would mean "Oh look, you have the same as I do" but I'm guessing the tone would be very different.
posted by nthdegx at 4:43 AM on October 7, 2004

I am distinctly not street, but I remember hearing that in high school, which was, ahem, significantly more than 2 years ago. 1994 sounds about right to me.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:47 AM on October 7, 2004

I was saying Oh Snap right around the sixth or seventh grade in the bad ole 80's. It's at least that old and it's one of the greats. Best said with one hand over the mouth, leaning slightly forward over your center of gravity and with the knees pressed together, your other hand can be used to add flair elements such as pointing or making an "ouch it's hot" jesture. Casual study of Flavor Flav in any pre-ninties PE video will help with your technique.

Oh it also really means like "oh shit" or the variant "oh sit". It can be used when someones gets "burned", but it is really appropriate for almost any expression of surprise or amazement. Kid does a crazy skateboard trick: "Oh Snap!", Kid's sweatpants cold fall down all by themselves in the lunchroom: "Oh snap!".

Rickey Powell (Yo, the Mets are so Spanish right now they got a dude who's first name is Martinez!) called a book of his Hip Hop photography "Oh Snap".
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:56 AM on October 7, 2004

When I was in elementary school in the DC area in the mid-80's, we used it to mean the same thing as "burn" or "faced".
posted by amarynth at 7:33 AM on October 7, 2004

yeah, 'oh, snap' is from back in the day, circa like 1991, when those "yo mama" jokes made a big comeback. 'Oh, snap' was the standard reply when someone got something over you...so get to steppin, bitch!

"oh, snap" is also interchangeable with "oh no you didn't". We also used it as a polite way to say "oh, shit". Actually, we never really used 'oh snap' because it's just corny...
posted by naxosaxur at 8:51 AM on October 7, 2004

A black kid in the original Rocky movie used it, IIRC. It's pretty old, but only in the past couple years has moved into the mainstream pop-culture.
posted by Ryvar at 9:52 AM on October 7, 2004

I always associated it with the Ricki Lake / drag queen melodramatic three-snaps-in-a-Z-formation gesture. The snap equivalent of "Talk to the hand," I guess. I just assumed "Snap!" was the verbal equivalent.
posted by occhiblu at 1:32 PM on October 8, 2004

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