Antedating of "Trailer"

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Mon Mar 24 22:53:33 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


Odd thing this. I went to work for Warner Bros. Pictures in 1974. My very
first day on the job, which basically involved hanging around and being
introduced to all the big shots, one such big shot was on the phone and
said, "Yeah, we're gonna go look at the trailers in a couple minutes." He
finished the conversation, hung up, futzed around with some papers on his
desk, then looked over at me and said, "Come on, let's go see the trailers."
So I went with him, fully expecting soon to be looking at something that
gets towed behind a car. What I ended up looking at were the new "coming
attractions" or "previews" of Blazing Saddles. To skip to the end, a new
colleague later said, "Don't ever call them coming attractions or previews.
They are trailers."

So, I don't know when it started, and I don't know exactly when it ended,
but I know for a fact that, for a substantial period of time, in Southern
California at least, only people in or around the Biz called these things
"trailers". The general public called them "coming attractions" or

Even odder: at the same time, the general public in Europe (at least
Francophones, with whom I worked) and Brazil were calling them "trailers".
Go figure.

>  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
>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>  The American Dialect Society -

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list