“And the Winner Is…”: Award Names

On Sunday evening, the 84th Academy Awards show aired, bringing us red carpet designer dresses, movie clips, sappy speeches, and small statues handed to the luckiest attendees. I have long wondered why the naked golden guy sitting atop a pedestal is called Oscar. Have you?

For today’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, let’s trace the origin of the Academy award names. How did we get the following?

Emmy. The Emmys are awarded for television excellence. The Television Academy started the show in 1949 and looked at over forty proposals before settling on the statuette designed by television engineer Louis McManus, who used his wife as a model. The winged woman holding an atom is supposed to represent both arts (wings of a muse) and science (atom). Then came the naming of the golden lady. Harry Lubcke, another television engineer and the third president of the Academy, suggested “Immy,” a term commonly used for the early image orthicon camera. His suggestion was changed to Emmy, a female name more consistent with the statuette itself.

Grammy. Here’s one that actually makes sense! This award presented by The Recording Academy is also called the gramophone award, a reasonable name given the appearance of a golden gramophone on the statuette. For those of you whose music experience has always involved CDs or MP3 players, a gramophone is an old-timey record player, the kind that played music from those huge black discs that went around and around with a tiny needle on the grooves. Shortened, the gramophone award is a Grammy. The Grammys have been given out since 1958, with the most recent ceremony on February 12.

Oscar. Officially called the Academy Award of Merit, this golden statuette has been known as Oscar since 1939. Oddly enough, the Academy of Motion Picture ArtsĀ and Sciences doesn’t know for certain where it got the name. Their best guess? A popular story has it that Academy librarian Margaret Herrick saw the trophy for the first time and said it resembled her Uncle Oscar. Given that the statuette is a golden knight sitting atop a reel of film, I have to wonder what this uncle was like.

Tony. Tony is the nickname for the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre. And now for the next question: Who the heck is Antoinette Perry? She was an actress, director, and co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, which awards the Tonys. She passed away in 1946, and Brock Pemberton, producer and director, founded the Tony Awards in 1947 in her name. Brock and Antoinette worked together, co-founded the American Theatre Wing, and were romantically involved as well, so it was an apt tribute to Perry and the award recipients.

So are you a fan of awards shows? Which ones do you most enjoy? Which statuette do you like best?

Sources: Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – History of Emmy Statuette, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences – The Oscar Statuette, The Recording Academy, Spinner.com – Grammy Awards History, Wikipedia, Tony Awards – Our History