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The term talkies, i.e. talking pictures, I was surprised to learn was not coined in 1927 after the release of The Jazz Singer, but in 1913. The term is now obsolete whereas motion picture, meaning moving pictures on a screen, has existed since 1896, although it's become more dated. Movie, its shortened and more modern version, dated possibly from 1908, is still very much in vogue in the US.

The Online Etymology Dictionary says that film (the more popular BrEng equivalent for movie) was

First used of "motion pictures" in 1905.

British speakers will say:

  1. Have you seen the new James Bond film?

  2. We watched a film about prison life.

  3. The film was made on location in India.

American speakers, if I'm not mistaken, will use film in sentence number two, and movie in the others. Movie is connected more with entertainment, whereas film is considered more of an art form, an undergraduate will take Film & Media Studies, not Movies & Media Studies.

My questions:

  • I'd like to know when the term talkies as in "talking pictures" died out. When was it no longer considered a novelty and people reverted back to saying motion pictures/movies?
  • Why the term, film, was adopted by British speakers and most European countries when motion pictures is arguably the authentic expression and therefore, the more accurate term.
  • Lastly, which term is more common: 3D film or 3D movie? (The latter does sound odd to my ears.)
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  • I don't know the answers to your questions, but I'll venture another synonym for you: picture.
    – tobyink
    Mar 1, 2014 at 11:29
  • @tobyink That's a shorter version for "motion picture" which I'd guess postdates it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 1, 2014 at 14:32
  • If a moving picture is a "movie" and a moving picture with sound is a "talkie", can I propose we call moving pictures with 3 dimensions "depthies"?
    – user53089
    Mar 3, 2014 at 1:34
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    Shouldn't this be three separate questions? Mar 6, 2014 at 21:56
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    Btw, "We watched a movie about prison life" is much more common in the US. The only people who regularly use "film" in the US are film aficionados (and those in the film industry).
    – MrHen
    Mar 6, 2014 at 22:43

2 Answers 2

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I'm not sure when the term "talkie" in the context of "motion picture" died out, but I have heard of the term "talkie" being used for movies that have very little action and mostly dialogue. In this context, I have heard the movie "Interview With a Vampire" being described as a "talkie".

I think the reason "Motion Picture" would be more accurate than "Film" is because the term "Film" can also refer to still pictures, like "film in the camera".

As for 3D, I have heard the term "3D Movie" used a lot here in the United States. I haven't met anyone who says "3D Film".

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  • One word meaning two things does not make the word less accurate. :)
    – MrHen
    Mar 7, 2014 at 4:16
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Actually, in AE, "movie" and "film" can have different connotations, depicting the quality:

  • Film: Citizen Kane
  • Movie: Jennifer's Body

Film is more a work of art, whereas movie is tripe sold to the lowest common denominator of moviegoers (of course, I've never heard the term "filmgoers").

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  • Filmgoers is used by certain movie critics and reviewers. The film/movie distinction you note is mostly unfounded. The only people I know who try to make that distinction are self-admitted film snobs. If you were to correct anyone using a term with this definition it would be considered rather insulting.
    – MrHen
    Mar 7, 2014 at 4:14
  • Different people vary in where they draw the line. Some, for example, use the term "movie" for moving images recorded in any medium, while reserving the term "film" for moving pictures photographically rendered on a strip of celluloid, acetate, polyester, or other similar medium.
    – supercat
    Sep 26, 2014 at 22:50

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