There are several theories, but one famous filmmaker played the decisive role
Oscar(R) Statuette
Credit: Albert Watson/AMPAS

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The Academy Awards began with an inauspicious start, but the honors quickly became very important to the Hollywood community. So important, in fact, that the coveted gold statuette soon needed a nickname. Eventually, everyone settled on Oscar, but it’s still not entirely clear who first called it that.

The most frequently cited theory is that Academy librarian Margaret Herrick said upon seeing the statue that it looked like her uncle Oscar. (Uncle Oscar was in pretty good shape, apparently.) Another theory credits actress Bette Davis, who claimed to have coined the name after her first husband, bandleader Harmon Oscar Nelson Jr.

Whatever the origin, the moniker caught on but remained informal until 1934, when Walt Disney described the award as an Oscar in his acceptance speech for The Three Little Pigs. In his column about the ceremony, newspaperman Sidney Skolsky used “Oscar” in print for the first time. Uncle Walt’s reward for making the name official: 22 competitive Oscars over the course of his career — a record that remains unsurpassed. The Mouse had roared, and the rest is history.

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