And The Award Goes To…

The four major performing arts honor their respective members with separate and distinct award ceremonies. Some award recipients may show disdain for the process and boycott the presentation, but others seem happy to accept the recognition of their peers on the world stage. It’s interesting to note that three of the four award ceremonies make use of peoples names for their award, while the fourth is a nickname for your grandma. Here’s a brief rundown on the four big awards and the meaning of their names, which may surprise you!

The Academy Awards (aka. The Oscars)

The big night for motion pictures goes by that name as well as its more popular nickname, the Oscars. While the other three awards mentioned here go solely by the names cited, this one gets mileage out of both designations. The governing body for the awards is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). They were first awarded in 1929, first broadcast on radio in 1930, and first shown on that newfangled television thing in 1953. Wikpedia says that first awards show ran a total of 15 minutes, which is a far cry from the hours-long endurance marathons they’ve evolved to. They’re coming up Sunday night on ABC at 7 p.m. (EST), 4 p.m. (PST).

The statue that everyone hopes to take home was modeled after Mexican actor Emilio “El Indio” Fernández. And where did the Oscar name come from? Mental Floss says “The popular theory is that the nickname for The Academy Award of Merit—as the statuette is actually named—was coined by Academy Award librarian and future Director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick. The story goes that when she first saw the statue in 1931, she said that it looked like her Uncle Oscar.”

The Tony Awards

The Tony Awards are awarded by the American Theater Wing and The Broadway League to acknowledge the best in live Broadway theater performance. Started in 1947, the award is named after Antoinette Perry. The actress/director/producer was also co-founder of the American Theater Wing, and Tony was her nickname. The award itself includes a medallion with the traditional comedy/tragedy masks associated with the theater. The 2017 Tony Awards are set for June 11.

The Emmy Awards

This is the big one for the television industry. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) runs the show here, and the first Emmy was presented back in 1949. The Emmy Awards present the distinctive trophy of a winged woman holding an atom—it was designed by TV engineer Louis McManus. His wife served as the trophy inspiration. Raise your hand, all of you who knew it was an atom.

It’s rumored that ATAS founder Syd Cassyd first thought about calling the award the “Ike,” a nickname for the TV iconoscope tube. However, that was also war hero and future president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nickname. And besides, who outside of the business knows what an iconoscope is, anyway? However, in this case, the engineers eventually prevailed. Third academy president Harry Lubcke, who was also an engineer, thought of “Immy,” which was a term used for the image orthicon tube in early cameras. They later changed it to a feminine version, Emmy—to match the statue. The date for the 2017 Emmy Awards is TBD.

Grammy Awards

According to, The Recording Academy is “an organization of musicians, producers, engineers and recording professionals that is dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers” established in 1957. The music industry award itself dates back to 1959, awarding artists of the previous year.

They first considered calling their award “The Eddie,” named after Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph. But they decided shortening the name of Emile Berliner’s invention, which was the gramophone. The winner gets a prop gramophone trophy, which is reused every year—the personalized award comes later. At this point, many people have never even seen, much less used, a gramophone. But you have to admit, it makes a better statue than, say, an MP3 player.

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