Antedating of "Trailer"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 24 20:37:34 UTC 2008

So, how'd it come to replace "preview" as the term for short excerpts
from a film to appear at some random time in the future that usually
precede a longer film? I'm still not quite comfortable with that


On 3/24/08, Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at> wrote:
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>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>  Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
>  Subject:      Antedating of "Trailer"
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>  I noticed the following antedating in the Straight Dope archives:
>  In its entry for trailer the Oxford English Dictionary provides quotations showing the word used in the sense meaning "promotional movie clip" from as far back as 1928. But in the New York Times of June 2, 1917, I found this passage in an article reporting on the movie industry's participation in a campaign to sell U.S. war bonds:
>     A committee of the National Association of the Motion Picture Industry yesterday began sending films known as trailers [advertising the bonds] to all of the 15,000 or more movie theatres in the United States. These films are seventy feet in length and will be attached to longer films that are shown at every performance.
>  Always fun to outdig the OED. Note that this explanation, like Harris's above, suggests a concrete basis for the term: a trailer is a short film that literally trails from the end of a longer one.
>  Fred Shapiro
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