Sunday, June 15, 2008

Trailer Park

Dear Wordsmith,

Why do people say movie "trailer" instead of "preview" nowadays?

And why do they call it a trailer? Wouldn't that indicate something AFTER the movie. I didn't look this up in the dictionary because I figured they would give me the definition of the kind of house some people live in.


Curious & confused

Well, C&C (love your music factory, by the way), I did some searching, and the adventure revealed many wonderful things. I'll try to tackle them in order.

1. Ironically enough, very few people actually say "nowadays" nowadays.

2. Even more ironically, the term trailer actually dates back to 1912, according to the Straight Dope. So it is by no means a neologism, although it is more recent than the initial use of the term nowadays, which debuted in the 14th Century.

3. They were originally called trailers because they were shown at the end of films. It didn't take long for the folks to figure out they were much more effective when shown before viewers left the theater . . . marketing genius at work.

4. For whatever reason, it took forever for people to stop calling them trailers. Since forever has not yet run its course, people are still calling them trailers.

5. I believe there is a word for any word or phrase that remains in use even after waving goodbye to its etymological validity. Expressions like "dialing" or "hanging up" a phone still persist even though it is rare for either one to be done literally. I remember reading this term and discussing it at length, but an extensive search has yielded no fruit.

6. The search did, however, bring me back to the word retronym, which is a term for words that are forced into existence by developments beyond their control. Terms like "acoustic guitar" or "wireless remote" or "manual transmission" all came into being because the redundancy has vanished. For instance, had five more such films never been made, no one ever would have uttered the words "Rocky One." But alas. Alack. There were many more Rocky's, and thus many more reasons to place the retronymic roman numeral uno after the Oscar-worthy Rocky. I remember this word in connection with the yet-to-be-relocated word mentioned in number 5, because both retronym and my verbal John Doe became the main topics of the unforgettable discussion about the apparently quite forgettable word.

7. Arggh.

Well, C-squared, I hope that helps clarify things for you. Unfortunately, I am more deeply mired in confusion than ever.

1 comment:

  1. I use the word nowadays all the time - I've never even thought about it - is that an age thing?

    Is using the word "trailer" a regional thing? I don't ever remember the word "trailer" being used except maybe in the past 5-7 years or so. I remember them being called "previews" and they were always before the movie you came to watch started but after they always had cartoons before the movie. I'm only going by what I can remember though and I actually get made fun of by my family for my bad memory, so...


    Thanks for your research oh wise Word Man!


I welcome all comments and arguments, especially if you cite your sources (no need to use MLA style or anything).