[Ads-l] Slight But Important Antedating of Term "Oscar"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jun 4 15:05:06 EDT 2018


Is there any new intelligence on the etymology?  The OED has:

============
Origin: Of uncertain origin. Perhaps from a proper name. Etymon: proper name Oscar.

Etymology: Origin uncertain; perhaps < the name of Oscar Pierce, 20th-cent. U.S. wheat and fruit grower (see note).
In 1931 Margaret Herrick, librarian (and later executive director) of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is said to have remarked that the statuette reminded her of her ‘Uncle Oscar’, the name by which she called her cousin Oscar Pierce.
 
The name was first used officially by the Academy in 1939.
============

LH

> On Jun 4, 2018, at 2:45 PM, Mark Mandel <mark.a.mandel at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> 
> Good catch!
> 
> On Mon, Jun 4, 2018, 10:13 AM Shapiro, Fred <fred.shapiro at yale.edu> wrote:
> 
>> I have found a slight but important antedating of the term "Oscar"
>> denoting the motion picture Academy Award.
>> 
>> 
>> It should be clearly understood that Barry Popik is the person who tracked
>> down usage by Sidney Skolsky of "Oscar" in the New York Daily News, March
>> 19, 1934, and pointed out that Skolsky's association with the term in 1934
>> should supplant unsubstantiated popular theories that Margaret Herrick or
>> Bette Davis originated "Oscar."  The Oxford English Dictionary's first
>> citation is the March 19 occurrence found by Popik.  Popik has unearthed
>> more important factual information about very important Americanisms than
>> anyone else ever has, and "Oscar" is one of his best discoveries.
>> 
>> 
>> Popik also recently pointed out that the New York Daily News has now been
>> digitized by newspapers.com.  In searching newspapers.com today I
>> retrieved the following two-day antedating of "Oscar":
>> 
>> 
>> *****
>> 
>> 
>> 1934 Sidney Skolsky in _New York Daily News_ 17 Mar. 3/2  The Academy of
>> Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made its annual awards for the outstanding
>> achievements in the motion picture field at their banquet in the Ambassador
>> Hotel this evening.  These awards mean to Hollywood what the Pulitzer prize
>> means to the dramatists and novelists.  It is the picture people's main
>> incentive to strive for an "artistic achievement" in an industry where
>> their worth is judged by box office figures.  At tonight's banquet the
>> winners, while movieland looked on and applauded, were presented with
>> bronze statues.  To the profession these statues are called Oscars. ...
>> Here are a few winners who now have a little Oscar in their home. ... The
>> Oscar for the best production of the year went to Fox for "Cavalcade." ...
>> Laughton, who started as a kitchen clerk in the Claridge Hotel in London,
>> also was not present to receive his little Oscar. ... The Oscar for the
>> best direction went to Frank Lloyd for "Cavalcade."  Sarah Y. Mason and
>> Victor Heerman will take turns on the Oscar for their adaptation on "Little
>> Women."
>> 
>> 
>> *****
>> 
>> 
>> The primary significance of the citation above is not the two-day
>> improvement in the earliest known occurrence of "Oscar."  The primary
>> significance is that Skolsky, who later claimed to have coined "Oscar," in
>> this March 17, 1934 column states that "To the profession these statues are
>> called Oscars" (establishing that the term was used before March 17) and
>> does not in any way present the term as his own coinage.  As a result, the
>> March 17 citation greatly undermines the idea that Skolsky was the
>> originator.
>> 
>> 
>> Fred Shapiro
>> 
>> Editor
>> 
>> YALE BOOK OF QUOTATIONS (Yale University Press)
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> 
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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


More information about the Ads-l mailing list