Cowznofski is a running in-joke heavily used in the early years of MAD magazine, usually as a character's last name, often with the first name "Melvin", occasionally "Lance" or "Irving." Its Eastern European feel was a perfect fit for the New York City Jewish style of the magazine. It is also one of the units in the magazine's joke Potrzebie unit system created by Donald E. Knuth, in which it is the equivalent of a year.
A character similar to Alfred E. Neuman named Melvin Cowznofski – a tall man with a large, broad nose, receding hair, glasses, and an obvious small brain – appeared a number of times in the magazine in the 1950s. In one issue he is described as an editor of Collier's Magazine, and manufacturer of souvenirs for the Brooklyn Dodgers. (Both Collier's and the Brooklyn Dodgers were defunct by then.) He was said to be "barred from 48 states (and Alaska will be voting any minute)"; Hawaii had not yet achieved statehood. Still, he "held a high position in our country, living atop Mt. Whitney."
Moxie Cowznofski was Neuman's girlfriend for a period in the 1950s.