Gobo, Oscar, Canaries, Baffle Blankets (1931)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Mon Sep 29 07:37:12 UTC 2003

   The RHHDAS has "canary" from 1937-41 Mencken AMERICAN LANGUAGE.
Obviously, Lighter didn't see this publication.  It's interesting, perhaps, also for

   2 January 1931, HELENA INDEPENDENT (Helena, Montana), pg. 2, col. 5:
   Hollywood, Calif., Jan. 1.--(AP_--"The baby is lost but doesn't want
mother, and apples and dollies alike are subjects of indifference to it."
   You probably won't hear any movie technicians uttering a sentence like
that, but if you linger around a busy talkie set in a studio here you'll
certainly hear exclamations quite as puzzling--all now officially sanctioned by the
dignified Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, through its technical
bureau which today issued a "selected glossary for the motion picture
   The sentence given above, by the way, if utter nonsense, is still
fundamentally true.
   For the glossary reveals "baby" as a "small spotlight, arc or
incandescent;" "lost" is colloquial for "not functioning;" and "mother" is the impression
of the sound record matrix obtained by electroplating.  "Apple" is colloquial
for audio-frequency vacuum tube, and a "dolly" is any small rolling
platform--often used to permit or recede from a scene being photographed.
      _New Language_
   The new compilation is complete with its list of technical terms such as
"aeolight," "H and D curve" and "potentiometer"--we won't go into those--but
includes also the picturesque slang and colloquialism of the sets.  For
   _Baffle Blankets_--Felt, muslin-covered sheets hung about a set to absorb
   _Bug_--An insect that flies across the set during a take, usually spoiling
the scene.
   _Butterlfy_--SIlk cloth on frame used to soft light when making exterior
   _Canaries_--Unidentified, high frequency noises in the recording system.
   _Dynamite_--An open connection box into which the studio lamps are
plugged--dangerous if stepped on.
   _Eagle_--Same as "bug"--but also (probably from the golf term) "a perfect
photographic take."
   _Gaffer_--Electrician in charge of a group of electrical workers.
   _Gobo_--Portable wall covered with sound-absorbing material, not intended
to be photographed.
   _High Hat--A very low camera stand.
   _Mike Stew_--Undesired sounds heard by the sound "mixer."  (The mixer's
the high mogul of recording, who sits in his sound-proof booth away from the set
and twists dials and screws to assure perfect recording.
   _Oscar_--Slang for oscillations.
   _Sing_--Undesirable high-frequency oscillations in the recording circuit.
   _Spider_--Portable electric switch and contact.
   _Whiskers_--A type of pulsation of intensity in reproduced sound.  Other
types are known as "flutters" and "gargles."

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