[Ads-l] Early Language of Television

Baker, John JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM
Wed Dec 21 10:59:17 EST 2016


A 1951 UP article covers a number of examples of the new language used by television pros.  I already wrote about "schlong" (a messy stunt); here are antedatings of "egg on his face" (OED has 1964), "mouth breather" (OED has 1985 for this in the stupid person sense), and "simulcast," n. (OED has 1964 for the noun, although the verb is earlier).  The article also covers television meanings of "sexy," "ghosts," "weepers" (sponsors' representatives), eighty-sixes (those who earn their living by getting on quiz shows, resulting in the call "There's an 86 in the house"), "super" (superimpose), "un-super," "balop" (film or slide with a cast list), "snow" or "blizzard," and "flareup."  If someone wants a copy of the article, let me know and I can send you a PDF by separate email.  This is from the Baytown (Tex.) Sun, Oct. 4, 1951 (Newspapers.com), although it also appeared in other newspapers.

"Egg on his face - This is behind-the-scenes talk to describe the expression of an announcer or an actor when the camnera stays beamed on him after he has finished his lines.  The expression usually melts down to a sickly grin.  CBS Director Byron Paul is credited with coining this term."  

"Mouth breather - Any actor who commits the TV "crime" of acting only when the camera is focused on him.  Directors like to have actors act all the time, and not just when they are in the limelight."

"Simulcast - A program sent out over television and radio channels at the same time."


John Baker

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


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