A Staff Report from the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

Why is the Oscar called the Oscar?

Dear Straight Dope:

Why is the Oscar called the Oscar? I assume it was named after some film industry luminary, but I don't recall one by that name. Some friends and I speculated that MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer named it after his brother Oscar Mayer, but on second thought that doesn't seem likely. What's the scoop?

According to the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia on AOL: "At the awards ceremony, televised each spring, a gold statuette is presented to each winner. This famous symbol of professional success was dubbed 'Oscar' in 1931 by a subsequent executive director of the academy, Margaret Herrick, who thought it resembled her uncle Oscar."

The awards ceremony began in 1929 as a private affair, but generated so much publicity that it soon grew to the phenomenon we know and love today. The success generated lots of imitators, many with equally cutesy names.

For example, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presents the Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in television in the United States. The name Emmy derives from Immy, short for image orthicon, a camera tube used in television. The Emmy statuette is a winged woman holding a globe aloft.

The recording industry presents the Grammy awards, named after the gramophone (an early version of the record player for those of you who don't know). Broadway theatre has the Tony award, named after actress Antoinette Perry.

In books, mystery writers receive the Edgar (for E.A.Poe) and science fiction writers receive the Hugo -- no, not for Victor Hugo, but for Hugo Gernsback, the founder of sci-fi magazines. And we can't forget the Razzies -- the Razz-berry award for worst achievements in cinema, parodying the Oscars.

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