Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Word Origins: Imagineering (1940s)


I had always assumed that someone at Disney had coined the term "Imagineering," until I came across an article from the May 2, 1947 Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) titled, "Black Light Magic." The article describes the work of Arthur C. Radebaugh and the caption to the picture above uses the term "Imagineering."

The Wikipedia entry for Imagineering claims that the term was coined by Richard F. Sailer in a 1957 article, ten years after this article appeared. An excerpt of the Wikipedia entry appears below:

The term "Imagineering" is a portmanteau word that combines "imagination" and "engineering." The term was coined by Richard F. Sailer in an in-house article written for the National Carbon Company Management Magazine, and reprinted by the Union Carbide Company. The article "BRAINSTORMING IS IMAGINation enginEERING" was published and copyrighted in 1957, and gravitated to Disney by unknown means. WED Enterprises applied for a trademark for the term in 1967, claiming first use in 1962.

After doing some further research the earliest mention of the word I was able to find was in an Alabama newspaper from 1942. The image below is from the 1947 Portsmouth Times article about Radebaugh.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1944 (from an advertisment in the Wall Street Journal 26 June) as the earliest date for this word. Write to them and prove them wrong!

bangermax said...

Hello, I'm a french blogger, and I want to congratulate you !
I discover your blog thanks to a french newspaper : "telerama" !!!
Hope you're getting famous all over the world !!!
It's very interesting to know what visions of the future ancient people could have !

My blog :
http://bangermax.blogspot.com/

Thuktun said...

Feel free to update the Imagineering page (thought probably not the Walt Disney Imagineering page, which is what you linked to) with this new information. Wikipedia is, after all, a wiki.

Aaron T. said...

The Wikipedia "Imagineering" page is just a disambiguation page. The page that needs updating is the "Walt Disney Imagineering" article, which gives the apparently incorrect history of the term.

Chris Jepsen said...

The Wikipedia was wrong about something? I am surprised. I may have a heart attack and fall down from the suprise which I just had.

Bill said...

Anonymous said...
The Oxford English Dictionary gives 1944 (from an advertisment in the Wall Street Journal 26 June) as the earliest date for this word. Write to them and prove them wrong!


Write to them yourself:
oed3 -at- oup -dot- com

Citations should be in the form of:
[article title] [author] [newspaper name (with location, if ambiguous)] [date] [page #] [column #]

They are always interested in hearing about new usages, new words, earlier uses of known words, etc. Poke around on their web page.