Antedating of "Movie"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Dec 2 17:05:24 UTC 2007

In addition to the antedating rounds on "movie(s)", there's the
ideology.  In that connection, I think it's worth reposting this
lovely screed that Barry first posted on 1.23.05, which finds that by
1915 the "movie" was already doing battle with "mama" and "papa" for
primacy in the nursery:

27 March 1915, THE MOVING PICTURE WORLD, pg. 1912, col. 1:

_Regarding the Childish Word, "Movie"_

IN a brevity in my Chicago letter last week, it was stated that out
of 733 editors throughout the country who cast a vote for or against
the use of the coined word "movie," 511 voted "yes," and 222 "no."
It is to be regretted that the reasons for their voting for or
against were not given and printed.

Within the past week I have read an article in one Chicago newspaper
in which the hope was expressed that the word "movie" would be
retained, because it comes in so handily in the writing of newspaper
headings! In another instance a writer was gleeful over the fact
that even the infant, among the first words mastered by him, used
the word "movie," and that "movie" was also the children's word and
so had come to stay. But somehow, much as I still like the old
nursery rhymes and love to hear children repeat them, I am of the
opinion that it is best to put away tenderly childish things when
one has reached manhood or womanhood.

The coinage of "movie" was most assuredly childish. It stands for
"moving picture." The coined word, please note, is not taken from
the name of the thing itself, but from the qualifying word "moving."
It is not at all unreasonable, therefore, to call everything which
is not at rest a "movie," including the sun, moon and stars, the
earth, an automobile, an airplane and the city garbage cart. Even
man himself when in motion is a "movie," and so is a fly, and so is
that other pestiferous insect with a name nearly alike.

Is this childish word "movie," on the ground of etymology, a correct
word to represent "moving picture" in our dictionaries? Is it a
correct word from the common sense point of view? Is it a correct
word for grown-ups to use, unless they are still fit for the nursery
in mind and accomplishments?

By all means let the children use "movie" to their little hearts'
content; but in the name of all that is logical and customary in the
making and adoption of the words of a language, let us, grown-ups,
put it tenderly away.

At 11:55 AM -0500 12/2/07, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Dec 2, 2007 9:20 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
>>  At 12/1/2007 11:00 PM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>  >Great find, Fred. The early (legitimate) "movie" cites seem to be
>>  >clustering around Philadelphia. So far we've got:
>>  >
>>  >1/8/11: Philadelphia Inquirer
>>  >3/24/11: Bucks County (Pa.) Gazette
>>  >8/1/11: Washington Post (from Philadelphia Inquirer)
>>  >8/18/11: Warren (Pa.) Evening Mirror
>>  >
>>  >Other cites given here:
>>  >
>>  Shouldn't one be cautious about evidence only from America's
>>  Historical Newspapers?  I think it (or perhaps it's the Gale 19th
>>  Century Newspapers?) does not have papers from a number of cities,
>>  for example in Massachusetts.
>Fred is finding early cites in AHN now, but previous digging was done
>in the ProQuest and Newspaperarchive databases, which do include
>papers from Massachusetts. The scanning/OCR for the Boston Globe on
>Proquest is admittedly pretty terrible for this era, but I don't see
>any "movie" cites in the Globe before mid-1912 (by which time the word
>was pretty widespread). Same goes for the Lowell Sun on N-archive.
>But it would be good to get a better sense of the geographical spread
>of "movie(s)", even if Philadelphia formed an early locus. For
>instance, by Oct. 1911, it was already appearing in print out in San
>Jose, CA:
>San Jose Mercury and Herald, Oct. 22, 1911, p. 3, col. 2 [AHN]
>Now that, in the main, the church and social workers have determined
>to help uplift the motion picture and to use it as an instrument for
>good rather than to oppose and antagonize it, not so much is heard
>from these quarters in opposition to "movies," as they are known among
>the street gamins.
>--Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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