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Today’s (September 25) Washington Post’s article in its Style column - “Emmys 2012: Number up, but repeat winners were, too” - introduces Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes’ comment on the redundancy of the 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards. She complains:

“If the members of the Hollywood creative community had any good sense, they would stand down as Candace Bergen did after winning several consecutive Emmys for best comedy actress, to give others a chance... Instead, they continue to submit themselves for consideration, and then, when they win -- a 10th time in a row, they nick the Emmy show -- during the Emmy show -- for being so redundant.”

I don’t understand what “nick” means in the last line of the above comment, and I don’t find any definitions of “nick” which seems to be relevant to such a usage of “nick” in any of major dictionaries, for example:

Cambridge English Dictionary defines “nick” only as a noun meaning “small cut in a surface or an edge.”

Oxford English Dictionary defines “nick” as a noun meaning small cut or notch, and verb meaning “make a notch.”

Merriam-Webster English Dictionary defines it as a noun meaning “a small notch, groove or chip,” and verb meaning 1. jot down, 2. cut short (e.g. cold weather), 3. catch at the right point of time, 4. cheat, overcharge.

None of the above definitions seems to be applicable to Lisa de Moraes’ usage of “nick.”

What does “they nick the Emmy show during the Emmy show” mean? Is the usage of “nick” in this manner well-received as English, or is it an American slanguage?

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3 Answers 3

The usage of "nick" seems to be similar to that of "deride" or "chide", perhaps somewhere in between. The author seems to be pointing out an irony in the apparent fact that the winners themselves of many consecutive Emmys actually complain about winning consecutive Emmys (perhaps not in a totally serious way) during the ceremony. "Nick" in this case is just slang probably invented by the author on the fly.

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Whatever it is, it is not, as far as I know, standard usage.

The Emmy awards show is known for its repeat awardees. One such winner is Jon Stewart (who is mentioned at the end of the OP's quoted passage) who in his acceptance speech this year made a remark about the predictability of the show. Lisa de Moraes while answering a question on the redundancy of the show's format picks up on this stating (with sarcastic humour) that Stewart not only won the award for the tenth time, but also mocked the predictability of it all while accepting it.

Nicked is possibly being used in the sense of cut to imply that Stewart has marred the Emmys somehow. Personally, I reckon that de Moraes simply made an error and meant to use knock which can mean "to denigrate, undervalue".

Instead, they continue to submit themselves for consideration, and then, when they win -- a 10th time in a row, they knock the Emmy show -- during the Emmy show -- for being so redundant.

Setting aside the confusing use of em dashes, the above makes far more sense to me.

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In the UK nick is used colloquially to mean steal. Could that be what was meant?

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