Ever stopped to consider how many slang terms entered the lexicon via Variety, the daily show-biz newspaper founded in 1905?
The answer: more than 200. Check them out in this online slanguage glossary.
The intro explains how the coinages came to be:
In part it was a device to fit long words into small headlines, but it was also to create a clubby feel among the paper's entertainment industry readers. People in the business understood thrush; those outside the business, well, they weren't Variety's target readers anyway.
(For the unitiated, a thrush, aka chantoosie, is a female singer.)
What struck me as I surveyed the list is how many word-formations that we associate with 21st-century media such as texting and e-mailing actually have old-media precedents. Here are some common Variety expressions and their contemporary analogs:
Truncations: Fave, exec, affil (for "network affiliate"), anni ("anniversary"), spesh ("special"), competish ("competition"), and nabe (neighborhood theater) all originated with Variety. Compare today's obvi ("obviously"), ridic ("ridiculous"), ador ("adorable"), and many other IMglish terms.
Acronyms and initialisms: B.O. (that's "box office," not "body odor"), d.j. (disk jockey), f/x (special effects), n.s.g. (not so good), o.o.t. (over the top), and--yes!--even b.f. and g.f. (boyfriend, girlfriend) first saw the light of day in Variety's pages. Their descendants include LOL, OMG, BFF, and a host of other texting initialisms.
Blends: Biopic (biographical picture), dramedy (a show that could be labeled either a drama or a comedy), kudocast (awards show), and--my personal favorite--zitcom (a sitcom aimed at teens) are Variety inventions. They're the spiritual antecedents of tech-age portmanteaux such as podcasting, greenwashing, and Netflix.
-er words. Variety has always been fond of inventing words with the -er suffix to signify agency or performance. There's oater (a Western-themed movie; popular in crosswords), sleeper (a surprising hit; appropriated by Woody Allen for his 1973 comedy); terper (dancer, hoofer; from Terpsichore, the Muse of the dance), cleffer (songwriter; from musical clef), and sudser (soap opera), among many others. Today? See Flickr, Revver, and Gawker, for starters.
What I especially admire about Variety slang are its flights of synecdoche--ankle to mean "to walk away; to quit or be dismissed from a job"; Mouse to mean the Walt Disney company or any of its divisions, pour to mean "cocktail party," sprocket opera to mean "film festival"; mitting to mean "applause." That's the sort of vivid, concise imagery that really has legs--another Variety coinage.
(Hat tip: Kottke.)