Can you feel that? That's your body filling up with excitement knowing that the biggest night in entertainment, the Oscars, is almost here. The fun begins Sunday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. EST on ABC.
When you're not arguing with your fellow viewers over whether the lack of nominations for The LEGO Movie or Selma was the biggest snub of the year, you're probably going to have a fight or two over what to call this awards ceremony. It's officially known as the Academy Awards, but most people seem to prefer calling it the Oscars for simplicity's sake. Since the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gives out these awards, calling it the Academy Awards obviously makes sense. But where the heck did this Oscars nickname come from?
Oscar is actually the nickname of that iconic, shiny, golden statuette that each of the winners gets. Its real name is actually the Academy Award of Merit.
However, like most origin stories IRL, the exact history of the nickname is a bit murky. One of the more popular stories is that Academy Librarian and future Executive Director Margaret Herrick once said that the statuette looked like her uncle named Oscar, according to the Academy's website.
The nickname started catching on in show biz when Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky used it to refer to Katharine Hepburn's first Best Actress win in 1934 in a New York Daily News article. However, Skolsky's use of the word "Oscar" to refer to the Academy Awards wasn't a term of endearment. He used it to poke fun at the pretentiousness and haughtiness of the ceremony. In his 1975 memoir Don't Get Me Wrong, I Love Hollywood, Skolsky wrote, as reported by Mental Floss:
"It was my first Academy Awards night when I gave the gold statuette a name. I wasn't trying to make it legitimate. The snobbery of that particular Academy Award annoyed me. I wanted to make the gold statuette human. ...
You know how people can rub you the wrong way. The word was a crowd of people. I'd show them, acting so high and mighty about their prize. I'd give it a name. A name that would erase their phony dignity. I needed the magic name fast. But fast! I remembered the vaudeville shows I'd seen. The comedians having fun with the orchestra leader in the pit would say, 'Will you have a cigar, Oscar?' The orchestra leader reached for it; the comedians backed away, making a comical remark. The audience laughed at Oscar. I started hitting the keys. ...
'THE ACADEMY awards met with the approval of Hollywood, there being practically no dissension... The Academy went out of its way to make the results honest and announced that balloting would continue until 8:00 o'clock of the banquet evening... Then many players arrive late and demanded the right to vote... So voting continued until 10 o'clock or for two hours after the ballot boxes were supposed to be closed... It was King Vidor who said: 'This year the election is on the level'...Which caused every one to comment about the other years... Although Katharine Hepburn wasn't present to receive her Oscar, her constant companion and the gal she resides with in Hollywood, Laura Harding, was there to hear Hepburn get a round of applause for a change...'"
See? Even back then some people found the idea of getting so wrapped up in the pomp and circumstance of these Hollywood awards shows completely ridiculous.
Still, some believe that Walt Disney was the first to publicly refer to the Academy Awards statuette as an Oscar. He used the word in his acceptance speech when The Three Little Pigs won Best Animated Short in 1934. Though many in the industry had used the word in a mocking way as Skolsky did, some say this was the first time the statuette was lovingly referred to as an "Oscar."
"Oscar" soon became a cute pet name for the Academy Awards, so much so that in 1939, the Academy took on this official nickname. Since then, the Academy Awards has become so well known as the Oscars that the ceremony was actually rebranded as just the Oscars starting with the 85th awards show in 2013, instead of a variation of "the 85th Annual Academy Awards" as it has been officially called throughout its history.
Seeing as how the official name of this awards show was kind of a mouthful and that no one can deny the delight of saying "Oscar," I'd say they made the right choice, even if the name didn't start out so nice.