Oscars 2019: Why Are the Academy Awards Called the Oscars?

February 22, 2019, 6:40 PM UTC

The 91st Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. But why are the Academy Awards sometimes called the Oscars? It’s because of that iconic statue, and the mystifying origins of its name.

Why are the statuettes called Oscars?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences calls the Oscar statuette the most recognizable trophy in the world, but the origin story about its name remains a mystery. The most enduring legend about the statuette’s name is this: Margaret Herrick, the then-Academy librarian who eventually became the organization’s executive director, is said to have remarked upon seeing it for the first time, that the statue resembled her uncle. You can guess his name. So, Uncle Oscar may not be the reason we still call the statuettes by the name, but this myth sure stuck.

Though the first Academy Awards were held in 1929, the nickname wasn’t adopted until 1939, according to Mental Floss. And if you see an A-list celeb clutching a statue like she’s likely to drop it, that’s because those little golden guys are plenty hefty. Oscar statuettes are 13 1/2 inch-tall and weigh a heavy 8 1/2 lbs, as they are made from solid bronze and plated in 24 karat gold.

Who designed the Oscar?

The statutes were originally designed in 1928 by the late Cedric Gibbons, the chief art director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), who was an Oscar winner in his own right. Nominated 38 times, he won 11 Oscars during his career.

The actual statue sculpting was assigned to the late Los Angeles sculptor George Stanley, who was just 26 years old when he was tapped to create the memorable little man. Stanley was known to be extremely humble; when he was acknowledged at the first Academy Awards ceremony, he hid behind a plant, according to Los Angeles Magazine.

Today, the Academy says is takes about three months to manufacture 50 statues for each year’s award ceremony. More than 3,100 have been handed over in the past nine decades. As for who will take one home this year? You’ll have to tune in to find out.