Oscars 2013: Why Are the Academy Awards Called "The Oscars"?

Pop culture fans gear up to celebrate the 85th Academy Awards on February 24, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences honors the best films of 2012. "The Oscars" have been the highest honor for film achievement since 1929. However, who did nickname them like that?

How did the annual Academy Awards' famous golden statues, that are handed out to the winners, become "Oscar," and why? A few theories try to explain such a relevant question for pop culture and the movie industry. 

The Academy was formed in 1927 to serve as a non-profit organization that would promote the advancement of film. The first Academy Awards was held in May 1929, in the Roosevelt Hotel (Los Angeles). It was not until 1953 that the event was first televised, and with the advancement of color broadcasting, the show became a spectacle to viewers across the nation. According to the Academy, the Oscars are now broadcasted internationally to over 200 countries.

The famous Oscar statue's official name is The Academy Award of Merit. Oscar stands at a height of 13 ½ inches, and weighs 8 ½ pounds. For some added trivia, when observing closely the figurine is actually a nude knight. He has a sword in his hands and his standing on a movie reel. The reel has five spokes to represent the five original components of the Academy: actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. The statue was originally made of bronze with gold plating. However, due to a metal shortage during World War II the figures were made of plaster. Oscar is now made of gold-plated britannium. The only change that was ever made to the iconic statue is an increase in the height of the base in which Oscar stands.

The origin of Oscar's name is still to be determined, but there are a few stories that claim to explain it. One theory suggests that an Academy librarian Margaret Herrick thought the figure resembled her uncle Oscar. Another story involves actress Bette Davis. In 1936, upon accepting her award for Best Actress, Davis jokingly said that the statue's backside resembled her first husband Harmon Oscar Nelson. A third story can even be attributed to journalist Sidney Skolsky — when he referred to the statue in his writings.

Regardless of the origins of its nickname, Oscar amassed a significant following. The Academy officially adopted the name in 1939, and now "Oscars" are used to identify the prestigious show. Who knew one of the world's most recognized awards would have such a unique back-story? No matter who decided to give the nude knight its famous nickname, "Oscar" remains one of Hollywood's most fascinating mysteries.

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Shawna Gillen

Shawna is currently studying Political Science and Psychology at Marist College. She has a passion for politics and is an aspiring lawyer. In her spare time she likes to play club women's rugby, and contributes as the Co-News Editor for Marist's student newspaper.

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