• Oscar •
ah-skêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: The nickname for a gold statuette given as an award in film-making by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Notes: Today's Good Word and the image it refers to are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the US, so use it with care. Everyone in the US knows who Oscar is and what he stands for, so there is little more we can add. It is a proper noun and so must be capitalized. Otherwise, like all proper nouns, it is a lexical orphan.
In Play: Although at tonight's 91st Academy Awards presentation it will reward all aspects of movie-making, the word Oscar today usually refers to excellent acting: "Mahatma Handh should get an Oscar for his performance begging the boss for a raise." However, it has also taken on a sense of an award for any kind of outstanding performance: "If they gave out Oscars for getting parking tickets, Lucy Lastik would win one hands down."
Word History: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was organized in 1927 and it immediately moved to create a trophy to recognize the achievements of film makers. Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley created a statuette, a figure of a knight standing on a reel of film, hands gripping a sword, to represent the award. It was named the Academy Award of Merit, but this name was quickly replaced by Oscar. Some think that it reminded Margaret Herrick, the executive director of the Academy, of her Uncle Oscar, so she began calling it that, a habit that spread quickly. Keep in mind, though, no reliable verification of this story exists. (Don McCormick thought we should say something about the Academy Awards ceremony tonight, so we dedicate this word to him.)