"Movie" & "Photoplay"

Barry Popik bapopik at GMAIL.COM
Mon Dec 3 01:58:19 UTC 2007

The 1931 article below is interesting, admitting that "movie" is from
1909. It's wrong on "photoplay," though. While there was a 1910
contest and "photoplay" won, the word had also been used in 1909.
The 1931 article suggests that the word "movie" might come from comic
strips. Indeed, the multi-panel strips often used the word "movie,"
especially in the 1910s.
Movie Words: Antedatings of Cinematic Terms
Fred R. Shapiro
American Speech, Vol. 58, No. 3 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 216-224
Movie Jargon
Terry Ramsaye
American Speech, Vol. 1, No. 7 (Apr., 1926), pp. 357-362
JSTOR: Movie Jargon - The motion picture world is unalterably opposed
to the word movie in any .... Edgar Strakosch, a California musician,
coined Photoplay and got the money. ...
"Inventing Film Study and Its Object at Columbia University, 1915 ...
An exhibitor from Sacramento, Edgar Strakosch,. coined the word
'photoplay' when he won a 1910. contest sponsored by the Essanay
Company to find ...
10 January 1931, Uniontown (PA) Morning Herald, pg. 9, col.s 2-3:
HOLLYWOOD--Use of the word "movie" in speech and in writing to
describe motion pictures persists notwithstanding the new and more
descriptive "talkie."
Those in the business prefer "industry" or "profession," but the great
mass--the fans--like and probably always will continue to use "movie."
Fearing that "movie" was not dignified enough for their growing
business, producers in 1910 started a serious effort to have another
name coined.
When and where the term started is not known, but in 1909 "movie" got
wide circulation in newspaper comic strips. In another year it was on
its way toward nationwide usage.
The old Essanay company was the first to take up the campaign
(probably for the advertising it would get according to an authority).
Terry Ramsaye by offering a grand prize of $25 for a new name for
motion pictures.
The winner of the contest coined "photoplay;" but, like dozens of
others suggested from time to time, it didn't stick.
In the experimental stages of pictures a series of odd words and
terms, beginning with cinematograph and kinetoscope to nickelodeon,
nickelette, nickel-show and theatorium were tried and discarded.
Essanay's "photoplay" didn't settle the matter of a name. The
Vitagraph company for a long time was proud of its phrase, "Vitagraph
Life Portrayals," while another firm toyed with "Life Motion
(Oxford English Dcitonary)
photoplay, n.
orig. and chiefly N. Amer. Now hist.
A cinematic representation of a play, drama, etc.; a motion picture.
1909 Evening Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) 5 Feb. 3/3 (heading) New
photoplay for W. S. Hart has very strong heart appeal. 1921 19th Cent.
Apr. 661 A photo-play is seen by scores of millions of persons
throughout the globe. 2003 Akron Beacon Jrnl. (Ohio) (Nexis) 27 Jan. 1
Sweetser amassed a large collection of movie stills, clippings and
thank-you notes from actors and actresses who appeared in her

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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