Variety, for those under age 75, is the classic trade paper for the entertainment business. Back in the 1920s they started using their own distinctive shorthand for show business terms — partly to be funny, partly as an insider gesture, and partly just to keep the word count down.
Sticks Nix Hick Pix is the most famous example — a 1935 headline indicating that moviegoers in rural areas (“sticks”) were not turning out (“nix”) for films about farmers and backwoods types.
Variety still uses this semi-poetic style today: “Subway deal lets Mouse tout pics” means that the sandwich chain will be co-promoting Disney’s summer movie lineup. (Walt Disney is always “Mouse,” just like MGM is “the Lion.”)
Herewith, our six favorite and six most annoying Variety slang terms, with their official Variety definitions. Starting with the favorites:
ANKLE — A classic (and enduring) Variety term meaning to quit or be dismissed from a job, without necessarily specifying which; instead, it suggests walking; “Alan Smithee has ankled his post as production prexy at U.”
ZITCOM — a television comedy aimed at teenagers.
PASSION PIT — drive-in theater, so called owing to their privacy factor and romantic allure for teenagers; “The pic is playing at two passion pits in Miami.” (See also: ozoner)
HOTSY — strong performance at the box office; “The Devil’s Advocate made a hotsy bow last weekend.”
THRUSH — female singer; “The cabaret scene in New York is dominated by thrushes Barbara Cook and Julie Wilson.” (See also: chantoosie)
MOPPET — child, especially child actor; “Elizabeth Taylor is one of the few moppets who made the transition to adult star.”
Comment: If anyone ever spoke the words “hotsy bow” in real life, you’d probably slug them. But in print, it’s funny. “Passion pit” is charmingly out-of-date, and “moppet” just cracks me up. But “ankle” is still the all-time winner.
Sadly, some slang terms are too tortured or cute to be funny. They grate like fingernails on a chalkboard, even in print. The six worst offenders:
SESH — session or meeting; also a time frame, such as a weekend; “The convention will hold a sesh on film financing Tuesday afternoon” or “The film was down 36% at the B.O. this sesh.”
CLEFFER — a songwriter; “Jay Livingston was the cleffer on many Bob Hope films.” (See also: tunesmith)
MITTING — applause; “Bob Dylan‘s surprise appearance at the benefit provoked heavy mitting from the crowd.”
CRIX — critics; “While the director’s last film was a flop with auds, the crix were in his corner.”
PREXY (also prez) — president; “The studio has no plans to fill the prexy post in the wake of the exec’s resignation.”
CHOPSOCKY — a martial arts film; “Chopsocky star Chuck Norris will make a guest appearance on Seinfeld this season.”
Still: the sticks could be mitting Mitt for prexy in 2012, right? If only the crix would lay off.