Monday, September 13, 2004

The origin of the izzle

Kathleen Miller covers a fun topic in this week's On Language column: the izzle phenomenon, after she saw it in a New York Times headline recently.
Some clever Times copy editor, for a June article about Chrysler's new 300C sedan, created the headline, "Fo' Shizzle, That Big Bad Chrysler Really Does Sizzle."

The phrase made the headline because the person inquiring about the car was none other than the rapper Snoop Dogg, himself the creator of the izzle phenomenon and the man MTV calls the "slanguistic sensei" of the hip-hop generation.
Miller then launches into a history of the Z infixes, from the names at the end of "Double Dutch Bus"(1981) -- "Bilzarbra, Mitzery, Milzetty ... Titzommy, Kitzerrance, Kilzommy" -- to Another Bad Creation's "Playground" (1991) -- "Into the Mizzark chillin' in the pizzark ... mother said be home by dizzark."

Snoop* hit the trend in '93 with "Tha Shiznit": "The surgeon is Dr. Drizzay, so lizzay and plizzay with D-O-double-Gizzay."

And then Miller moves on to izzle. She traces some claims by E-40 but comes up short. But everyone seems to agree that the phrase originated in Northern California.

And from the Bay Area to the rest of America it went. It's in "Legally Blond II," Old Navy commercials, Fortune magazine and the British legal system. And let us not forget a song I was mildly obsessed with for some time: Jay-Z's "Izzo, H.O.V.A."

Now I'll be singing the song for weeks. But Snoop is saying enough, already.
He recently told Ryan J. Downey of MTV News: "The message is L.I.G.: let it go. OK, America? Let it go. You can't say 'izzle' no more. Tizzle, fizzle, dizzle — none of that. It's over with. ... Let's find something new. Maybe pig Latin, anything."
*Miller gives Snoop Dogg's real name as Cordozar Broadus. I was perplexed; I had always thought he was born Calvin Broadus. A little digging brought this article to my attention from the Times of London.
He was born Cordozar Broadus, but was known as “Calvin” until his mum started calling him “Snoop” after his favourite cartoon character, Snoopy from Peanuts.
So, watch out. All these sites are wrong. As is this MTV story.

Certainly, Snoop's "real name" is better known as Calvin. And there's nothing wrong with saying "Snoop Dogg, aka Calvin Broadus." But that's not the name he was born with.

(UPDATED: I originally had William Safire writing this column, but he's still on vacation, despite the byline on the story here, here and here. I'll trust this one at the Times. Thanks, Josh.)


At 5:05 PM, September 13, 2004, Blogger Bill said...

So, his favorite comic-strip character wasn't ... Calvin?

At 6:52 PM, September 13, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

It should have been. Had the cartoon been syndicated before 1985, we might have had no Snoop Dogg today ... a scary thought.

At 4:46 PM, September 15, 2004, Blogger Josh said...

I'm pretty sure the Chronicle screwed up on this one. Safire didn't write his column this week. Kathleen Miller wrote it.

At 10:45 AM, September 16, 2004, Blogger Nicole said...

Fascinating. The International Herald Tribune and the Taipei Times made the same mistake. Perhaps the NY Times News Service moved it under the wrong byline?

In any case, that makes a lot of sense. Safire is much too busy in politics to worry about language right now.

At 4:42 AM, September 21, 2004, Blogger Daryl said...

Have you tried the Shizzolator?The izzle phenomenon reminds me of the name game: Shirley, Shirley bo Birley
Bonana fanna fo Firley
Fee fy mo Mirley

At 11:23 PM, April 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

His name is Cordozar. I am the yearbook teacher at Marshall Middle School in Long Beach. His name in the yearbook is Cordozar for sure. There is also a picture of him in eighth grade with a caption calling him "Snoopy".


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