[Ads-l] Oscar origin redux

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Feb 19 22:12:05 UTC 2019

Many thanks for sharing your perspective and the results of your
exploration, Peter. I agree that different names were assigned to
tackling dummies. Yet, the number of times "Oscar" was used to name
dummies seems to be disproportionately large.

The previous message contained citations for

tackling dummy "Oscar" in 1924 (Yates Center, Kansas)
tackling dummy "Oscar" in 1928 (Fremont, Ohio).

This message includes citations for:

straw dummy in 1932 (Rockford, Illinois)
tackling dummy in 1934 (Allentown, Pennsylvania)
dummy used by police 1935 (Allentown, Pennsylvania)
tackling dummy in 1938 (Regina, Canada)
tackling dummy in 1939 (Lexington, Kentucky)

The last three citations occurred after the Academy Award was named
Oscar. They are included to provide evidence of a pattern. I could
only allocate a small amount of time to look for examples.

Date: June 11, 1932
Newspaper: Register-Republic
Newspaper Location: Rockford, Illinois
Article: (Picture caption)
Quote Page 14, Column 1
Database: GenealogyBank
[Begin excerpt]
THE BONUS ARMY'S ANSWER to attempts of Washington police to take them
out of town In trucks was this straw dummy. "Oscar," shown here poised
on a lorry with a loaf of bread under his arm. A sign on the dummy
read: "He's the only man who wants to-leave town." The veterans,
fortified with provisions, prepared to dig in for a siege
[End excerpt]

Date: September 13, 1934
Newspaper: The Morning Call
Newspaper Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania
Article: Hard Scrimmage For the Mules
Quote Page 20, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com
[Begin excerpt]
First blood was drawn yesterday at the Muhlenberg College football
practice, by Oscar, the tackling dummy, when Willie "Punchy" Laing
went sissy and had a bloody nose incurred while making a head-on
[End excerpt]

Date: February 12, 1935
Newspaper: Allentown Morning Call
Newspaper Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania
Article: 'Oscar' the Dummy Cop Found After Abduction
Quote Page 5, Column 3
Database: Newspapers.com
[Begin excerpt]
The "stuffed policeman," that was stolen from the Wolle service
station, at 2121 Union boulevard last Thursday is back at the station
. . . "Oscar," as the dummy is known, was headless and showed signs of
wear and tear.
[End excerpt]

Date: August 27, 1938
Newspaper: The Leader-Post
Newspaper Location: Regina, Canada
Article: Oscar Victim of Rough Play: 'Riders' Tackling Too Much for Famed Dummy
Quote Page 12, Column 3
Database: Newspapers.com
[Begin excerpt]
After taking repeated beatings around the waistline from determined
linemen for the past few days, Oscar, battle-scarred tackling dummy of
the Regina Roughriders, completely lost his head at Friday night's
workout and was hauled into the clubhouse a hopeless wreck.
[End excerpt]

Date: November 7, 1939
Newspaper: The Lexington Herald
Newspaper Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Article: Versailles Prepares For Blue Devil Tilt
Quote Page 6, Column 3
Database: GenealogyBank
[Begin excerpt]
The Jackets went through a lengthy signal drill this afternoon and
then were introduced to "Oscar," the tackling dummy. The introduction
had hardly been made before an over-anxious player threw an extra hard
tackle into the dummy and tore it loose from its fastenings.
[End excerpt]


On Tue, Feb 19, 2019 at 8:11 AM Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> I wouldn't read too much into the tackling dummy or ventriloquist dummy. There were also tackling dummies named, Gertrude, Kaiser Bill, "Hack n Mack", J. W., Cotton, and "the Hun."  Hollywood released two talkies about ventriloquists in 1929/1930. Erich von Stroheim played a ventriloquist with a dummy named Otto, and Lon Chaney (in his only talkie role) played a ventriloquist named Echo with five voices, the dummy was not named.  And Charlie McCarthy came out around the same time.
> Oscar for the stereo sound experiment dummy is from oscillations; not sure the single ventriloquist dummy in Texas or tackling dummy in Kansas signify any direct influence from other types of dummies on the naming of the stereo sound recording device developed in New Jersey.
> Get Outlook for Android<https://aka.ms/ghei36>
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2019 3:49:42 AM
> Subject: Re: Oscar origin redux
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Oscar origin redux
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Here are the citations for the conjectural "Oscar" origin story.
> [Begin Green=E2=80=99s Dictionary of Slang excerpt]
> Oscar n
> 2. (US) a stupid or unpleasant man; esp. when narrow-minded [?
> negative stereotype of sense 1].
> 1905 [US]   =E2=80=98Hugh McHugh=E2=80=99 Get Next 77: Despair would grab h=
> im and he=E2=80=99d
> be oscar with the souse thing for sure.
> 1928 [US]   R. Fisher Walls Of Jericho 201: There now, you dumb Oscar.
> [End GDoS excerpt]
> https://greensdictofslang.com/entry/mqyqb7y
> [Begin OED excerpt]
> Oscar, n.2
> A fellow, guy (esp. one held in contempt by the speaker); a foolish or
> ignorant man.
> 1918 =E2=80=98M. Brand=E2=80=99 in All-story Weekly 31 Aug. 37/1   He asks =
> her to show
> off her skill, but she says, =E2=80=98Nothing stirring, Oscar=E2=80=99.
> 1929   T. Gordon Born to Be 220   I could have killed that dumb Oscar.
> [End OED excerpt]
> Stephen Goranson suggested the relevance of "dumb oscar" in messages
> sent to the list back in June 2018.
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2018-June/151844.html
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2018-June/151859.html
> GDoS has "dumb Oscar" in 1928, and OED has it is 1929. Below is a 1922 cita=
> tion.
> Date: December 20, 1922
> Newspaper: The Rock Island Argus
> Newspaper Location: Rock Island, Illinois
> Article: The Daily Short Story: She Flaps to Conquer by Agnes Johnson
> (Distributed by the Wheeler Syndicate)
> Quote Page 6, Column 4
> Database: Newspapers.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> "Why," Stella would say, "your whole general appearance fairly shrieks
> conservatism. And, besides, you're too serious. If you should chance
> to meet a fellow who takes a shine to you, he would probably prove to
> be such a dumb Oscar or calculating prude that you'd want to chuck him
> in a week or so.
> [End excerpt]
> In 1924 an article in a Kansas newspaper about a high school football
> team mentioned that the tackling dummy was named "Oscar". There is a
> natural linguistic shift, I think, from a "dumb Oscar" to an "Oscar"
> which is a physical dummy.
> Date: September 14, 1923
> Newspaper: Woodson County Advocate
> Newspaper Location: Yates Center, Kansas
> Article: Foot Ball News
> Quote Page 1, Column 6
> Database: Newspapers.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> We say the tackling dummy "Oscar" doubles up when some of the Y.C. Beef hit=
>  him.
> [End excerpt]
> In 1928 the participants in a football practice in Ohio used "Oscar B.
> Dummy" which seems to be a tackling dummy.
> Date: September 10, 1928
> Newspaper: The Fremont Messenger
> Newspaper Location: Fremont, Ohio
> Article: F.H.S. Grid Candidates Open Struggle for Regular Positions With Va=
> rsity
> Author: Colonel
> Quote Page 7, Column 5
> Database: Newspapers.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> The big group of gridders not only has numbers, but it also has plenty
> of class and fight. Exercises, blocking, passing, kicking and running
> as well as a bit of flopping at the expense of Oscar B. Dummy has been
> the order of things . . .
> [End excerpt]
> In 1931 an article mentioned that a ventriloquist dummy was named Oscar.
> Date: October 9, 1931
> Newspaper: Lubbock Morning Avalanche
> Newspaper Location: Lubbock, Texas
> Article: Oscar Talked His Boss Out Of Jail:
> Bright "Cracks" Of Dummy Win Police Chief's Favor;
> As A Result, Oscar And His Buddies Are Free Once More
> Quote Page 12, Column 6 and 7
> Database: Newspapers.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> Somewhere =E2=80=94 outside of Lubbock=E2=80=94there is a ventriloquist's d=
> ummy this
> morning who believed he talked his boss and his boss' buddy out of the
> city jail. . . .
> Oscar, the dummy, was along but he was left outside. Wednesday
> afternoon, Oscar entertained visitors to the chief's office by
> impersonating the commander of the local police.
> [End excerpt]
> In 1932 a dummy named "Oscar" with twin microphones was used by sound
> engineers, I posted about this on the list in June 2018. The thread
> contains pertinent additional citation from Peter Reitan and others
> about this dummy. This high profile work by researchers at AT&T work
> was reported in newspaper and in Popular Science.
> http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/ads-l/2018-June/151854.html
> The overall point is that "Oscar" was being used as the name for
> dummies of various types in the years before the Academy Award
> statuette was named "Oscar". The statuette might be viewed as a small
> dummy.
> Critical or supportive feedback would be welcome.
> Garson
> On Tue, Feb 19, 2019 at 1:35 AM ADSGarson O'Toole
> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > The ceremony awarding Oscars will be held on February 24, 2019 which
> > has reawakened interest in the origin of the term "Oscar".
> >
> > Here is the outline of one possible origin story based on the work of
> > other researchers and on my own my explorations.
> >
> > By 1905 the term "Oscar" was used to refer to a stupid, foolish, or
> > ignorant man as noted in Green's Dictionary of Slang; the OED also has
> > an entry for this sense
> >
> > By 1922 the phrase "dumb Oscar" was used to refer to a stupid,
> > foolish, or ignorant man.
> >
> > By 1928 "Oscar" was used to refer to a physical dummy, i.e., a dummy
> > used in football practice was named "Oscar B. Dummy" (the meaning of
> > the term is somewhat ambiguous in the citation).
> >
> > By 1929 an article about the new vocabulary used for talkies (motion
> > pictures with sound) included: Oscar=E2=80=94Term for "electrical
> > oscillations."
> >
> > By 1931 "Oscar" was used to refer to another type of physical dummy,
> > i.e., a ventriloquist dummy
> >
> > By 1932 sound engineers constructed a dummy with twin microphones
> > located at the ear positions. The dummy was named "Oscar". The name
> > may have been inspired by existing associations with "dummy" and with
> > "electrical oscillations"
> >
> > Conjecture =E2=80=93 circa 1933: Someone referred to the Academy Award
> > statuette as "Oscar" because of its resemblance to a small dummy or
> > mannequin. Optional guess: Perhaps the person was a Hollywood sound
> > technician familiar with the high-profile experiments with the Oscar
> > audio dummy.
> >
> > In 1934 Sidney Skolsky wrote: At tonight=E2=80=99s banquet the winners, w=
> hile
> > movieland looked on and applauded, were presented with bronze statues.
> > To the profession these are called Oscars. . . . Here are a few
> > winners who will now have a little Oscar in their home
> >
> > I will post some citations and excerpts soon.
> >
> > Garson
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