Erroneous OED First Use for "Movie"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Feb 8 18:17:29 UTC 2013

On Feb 8, 2013, at 11:34 AM, Shapiro, Fred wrote:

> After years of lobbying the OED to remove a bogus 1902 citation for "movie," I now see that there is a clearly erroneous 1909 first use that has been added to the online entry for that word.  That 1909 citation from the Elyria Evening Telegram is actually from a 1919 newspaper issue, as can be seen by examining the original image in Newspaperarchive.
> Fred Shapiro
That would leave the orphaned cite from the 1910 Philadelphia Inquirer.

I take it from this memorable screed against the reduced form of what we should all insist on calling "moving pictures" that "the coined word 'movie'" was already in wide use by 1915, assuming there wasn't a sizable number of the 733 polled editors who responded "Movies?  What's a movie?":

27 March 1915, THE MOVING PICTURE WORLD, pg. 1912, col. 1:

_Regarding the Childish Word, "Movie"_

IN a brevity in my Chicago letter last week, it was stated that out of 733 editors throughout the country who cast a vote for or against the use of the coined word "movie," 511 voted "yes," and 222 "no." It is to be regretted that the reasons for their voting for or against were not given and printed.

Within the past week I have read an article in one CHicago newspaper in which the hope was expressed that the word "movie" would be retained, because it comes in so handily in the writing of newspaper headings! In another instance a writer was gleeful over the fact that even the infant, among the first words mastered by him, used the word "movie," and that "movie" was also the children's word and so had come to stay. But somehow, much as I still like the old nursery rhymes and love to hear children repeat them, I am of the opinion that it is best to put away tenderly childish things when one has reached manhood or womanhood.

The coinage of "movie" was most assuredly childish. It stands for "moving picture." The coined word, please note, is not taken from the name of the thing itself, but from the qualifying word "moving." It is not at all unreasonable, therefore, to call everything which is not at rest a "movie," including the sun, moon and stars, the earth, an automobile, an airplane and the city garbage cart. Even man himself when in motion is a "movie," and so is a fly, and so is that other pestiferous insect with a name nearly alike.

Is this childish word "movie," on the ground of etymology, a correct word to represent "moving picture" in our dictionaries? Is it a correct word from the common sense point of view? Is it a correct word for grown-ups to use, unless they are still fit for the nursery in mind and accomplishments?

By all means let the children use "movie" to their little hearts' content; but in the name of all that is logical and customary in the making and adoption of the words of a language, let us, grown-ups, put it tenderly away.


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