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Words for the movies
Posted: 23 October 2017 09:33 AM   [ Ignore ]
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When I was young in the England of the 1950s whenever we went to see a film the expression was always we’re going to the pictures. Sometimes it was flicks although I never heard the earlier term flickers, rarely cinema was used, never motion pictures, moving pictures, movies. Picture, flick or film were the most common terms to describe what we’d just seen. I wondered how this differed from the most common expressions other members of the board would have used and whether those expressions have changed over time. They certainly have in England, I rarely hear youngsters now speaking of the pictures, they go to the cinema or multiplex to see a film or movie. I’m pretty sure my 21-year old daughter would be puzzled if I spoke of the flicks although she would easily gather what I meant.

Here are OED’s earliest cites for the various expressions.

Motion picture, 1891
Moving picture, 1896
Movie, 1909
Film, 1905
Picture, 1894
Pictures (Br.), 1915
Flicks, flickers, 1927
Cinema, 1909
Multiplex, 1971

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Posted: 23 October 2017 12:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I was born in 1974 in the US and have lived here ever since. I’ve almost always used movie for the thing itself and either movie theater or simply theater for the place in which it’s seen, and I still do today. I’m sure I’ve also used film and cinema on occasion, but informally, when discussing what to do on a Friday evening, it’s always been movie and [movie] theater.

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Posted: 23 October 2017 01:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I was born in 1962 in the US and I would agree with NotThatGuy.  Even my father says “movie” and “movie theater”.  However, when he was a kid in the 40s, I think they probably said “picture(s)” more often.  It certainly seems like people who were in the business referred to them as “pictures”, even until fairly recently.

This is just my impression, but “film” seems to have a more artsy flair to it, i.e., The Godfather is a “film”; Dumb and Dumber is a “movie”.

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Posted: 23 October 2017 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I was born in ‘38 in Missouri.  A distant relative brought back some 8mm stuff he had stolen from navy
footage he had taken at Iwo jima. I think the old folks might have called it “moving pictures but I am not comfortable with that recollection.

I don’t recall what the more-or-less educational stuff we were subjected to in high school and the military was called.

There was a period when “Drive-in” and “Drive-in Theater” were popular amusements in addition to “movies” at a “movie theater”.

I was an adult before I ever seriously went to “movies” and my first real experiences were in the 60s at an “Art House Theater” where I saw “films” by Fellini.

Now I watch “Netflix”.

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Posted: 23 October 2017 03:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I was born in Iowa in 1940, and all I remember is going to the “movies” at the “movie theater” starting at a very young age. I haven’t been to a theater movie since I sat on a wad of gum and ruined my favorite corduroy suit back in the 1970’s.

[ Edited: 23 October 2017 03:56 PM by Eyehawk ]
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Posted: 23 October 2017 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Might we add to aldi’s list silent film and talkie?
Growing up in the 1950s, they were all movies at the movie theater/theatre or drive-in.  At college/uni in the sixties there were flicks.
All of the other terms were known and understood, but not used by anyone I knew.
Leftponder, who hasn’t been to the movies in decades.

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Posted: 24 October 2017 03:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I was born in Maryland in ‘57, and saw “movies” at the “drive-in”. Occasionally we would drive into town and go to a “movie theater”, which my city-raised parents sometimes called “a real sit-down theater"(which amused me because we didn’t stand in the car at the drive-in.) Older people would sometimes say they went to the “pictures” or “picture show” for either venue, perhaps to see a John Wayne “picture”.

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Posted: 24 October 2017 04:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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In South Africa they used to be called ‘bioscopes’; I don’t know if they still are. Why SA should be such an outlier, I don’t know.

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Posted: 25 October 2017 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I recall years ago hearing some British intellectual (I think it was Alistair Cooke, but am not certain) describing how one of his teachers insisted on pronouncing cinema in accordance with its Greek roots: kai-NEE-ma.

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Posted: 25 October 2017 09:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I recall years ago hearing some British intellectual (I think it was Alistair Cooke, but am not certain) describing how one of his teachers insisted on pronouncing cinema in accordance with its Greek roots: kai-NEE-ma.

One of the contributors to the book Noblesse oblige: an enquiry into the identifiable characteristics of the English aristocracy, published in 1956 and famous for including Nancy Mitford’s paper on ‘U and non-U speech’, remarks (this is from memory - I don’t have it in front of me) that in the early years of cinema there was considerable debate about how the word should be pronounced. He or she opined that the pronunciation finally settled on might not be etymologically correct but just sounded more like English than kai-NEE-ma, ki-NAY-ma and the like: ‘It might almost be the name of a vegetable. One can imagine saying, “Now, dear. eat up your sprouts and cinema, and make us all proud of you."’

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Posted: 25 October 2017 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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SL is right - “bioscope” (the building) it was in SA, or “bio” for short. We usually watched a “film” but “flick” wasn’t unknown. OED says the derivation is from bio as in biography and scope as in a scientific instrument to aid visual examination. The first citation of bioscope, the building, is Maine 1897, and the earliest SA citation from 1907. Not forgetting the “drive-in” or outside cinema where you plugged an amplifier onto the car window for sound. ”Ag pleez Deddy” was banned in SA for a while and “sugar-balls” appeared in a later version, but it does mention “bioscope”, “drive-in” and “flick”, all taken from the vernacular of the poorer white suburbs of Johannesburg in the 1960s.

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Posted: 25 October 2017 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I remember you mentioning the, um, “sugar-balls” candy in some previous discussion.

I’m assuming the “ag’ at the beginning of the song title (and each verse) is the Afrikaans cognate of German “ach”, yes?

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Posted: 25 October 2017 05:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The Oxford Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles has bioscope meaning a film from 1902 and meaning a movie theater from 1905. It also notes “the continued use of the word in S. Afr. Eng. was no doubt reinforced by Afk. bioskoop movies, cinema.” It’s just one of those dialectal holdovers.

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Posted: 25 October 2017 11:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Yes, Dr. T, I’ve mentioned it before. The “sugar balls” were actually delicious, suckable, hard, round little black confections. They cost less than a penny each and were much sought after by impecunious small white children. (Black children didn’t have the money to buy any). I don’t think there was anything racial intended at the time, even in racialistic South Africa. “Ag” sounds much like German “ach” and means much the same, in this case trying to encourage Deddy to donate more to the happiness of his offspring.

The singer/song-writer, Jeremy Taylor, taught Latin to the children he was singing about. A thankless task.

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Posted: 26 October 2017 05:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Dr. Techie - 25 October 2017 07:17 AM

I recall years ago hearing some British intellectual (I think it was Alistair Cooke, but am not certain) describing how one of his teachers insisted on pronouncing cinema in accordance with its Greek roots: kai-NEE-ma.

If so, it was pretension rather than faithfulness to Greek roots. That spelling and accentuation treat the word as though it were Latin, using the ahistorical Westminster pronunciation peculiar to the UK.

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Posted: 26 October 2017 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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It would not have been “pretension” to use the traditional pronunciation (which was not peculiar to the UK but as far as I know was in common English usage until the reformed “just like Caesar said it!” pronunciation came into common use; we still, after all, say SEE-zer rather than KYE-sahr, and et SETT-eruh rather than KYE-teh-rah).

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