Why are the Academy Awards nicknamed the Oscars? — Ask HISTORY — History Q&A

February 18, 2015 6:36 AM

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As recognizable as any Hollywood celebrity, the golden Oscar statuette has been around since the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. The iconic trophy depicts a knight holding a sword and standing on a film reel with five spokes, each representing one of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ five original branches: actors, directors, producers, technicians and writers. Although formally known as the Academy Award of Merit, the statuette, which stands 13.5 inches high and weighs 8.5 pounds, was officially nicknamed Oscar in 1939. It’s uncertain exactly where the nickname came from, although credit often is given to Academy librarian Margaret Herrick, who upon first seeing the statuette reportedly claimed it looked like her uncle Oscar.

Designed by MGM art director Cedric Gibbons (whose numerous film credits include “The Wizard of Oz” and “Julius Caesar”), the Oscar originally was made of gold-plated bronze. During World War II, when materials were scarce, the statuettes were produced from painted plaster. Today, they’re manufactur...

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