Where do awards names come from?
While some arts awards – the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, for instance – more or less tell you what they are by their name, other awards have a little more mystery in their monikers.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the alternate name for an Academy Award – an ‘Oscar’ – has an uncertain origin, but perhaps comes from the name of Oscar Pierce, an American wheat and fruit farmer. The reason behind this unlikely namesake is Margaret Herrick, librarian (and later executive director) of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who noted in 1931 that the award statuette reminded her of her ‘Uncle Oscar’, the name by which she called her cousin Oscar Pierce. The reference stuck and the award is still referred to as an ‘Oscar’ more than 80 years later.
Perhaps surprisingly, the ‘Tony’ of the Tony Award does not refer to a man, but to a woman. The annual awards, which are given by the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League in New York City to honor achievement in live Broadway theater, are named in honor of Antoinette ‘Tony’ Perry, an actress, manager, and producer.
In an era of binge-watching prestige dramas on tablets, the idea of cathode ray televisions feels awfully old-fashioned. However, it is likely that this old-fashioned technology is where the ‘Emmys’ got their name. Awarded for achievement in television by the American Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Emmys are said to be an alteration of Immy, which is itself a shortening of the term image orthicon. Image orthicon refers to a type of television camera tube popular in the cathode ray television sets of the mid-20th century.
The etymological origins of Grammy, of the Grammy Award, which is awarded for achievement in the recording industry by the American National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, may also seem obscure to some millennials. After all, in an era when turntables have mostly been supplanted by digital music players, what exactly ‘Grammy’ refers to – surely not their grandmother? – may confuse some. The name comes from the shortening of gramophone to gram, with the added –my influence of ‘Emmy’.
The top jury prize awarded at the annual Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France, the reason why the award appears in the form of a ‘palme d’or’ (‘golden palm’) is probably confusing to industry outsiders and those living outside of France. The award is a reference to the coat of arms of Cannes, which features a palm leaf.
The infamous Razzies, also known as the Golden Raspberry Awards, are given to the worst in the world of film, and are juxtaposed with the Academy Awards, or Oscars, which traditionally take place the following day. The award was named a ‘raspberry’ with reference to the sense of raspberry as a ‘sound made with the tongue and lips, expressing derision or contempt’.
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