16.3.09

-rama

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It is interesting to note the widespread use of a new derivative suffix, -rama, in New York advertising language. The appeal of -rama is evidently due to the great success of the wide-screen motion picture, Cinerama, which had its New York première on September 30, 1952…Cinerama was made up in the mid-194os, when Fred Waller, the inventor of this motion picture technique, offered a case of champagne to a co-worker for the best name for the process. The prize was won by Waldo McLowerie, who came up with Cinerama. It was obviously coined on the analogy of panorama and the less frequent cyclorama, from the root cine-, occurring in a great many words related to motion pictures, and the ending -rama, taken from the final part of panorama and cyclorama, disregarding any analytic-etymological considerations. (Panorama, dating from 1796, goes back ultimately to the Greek pan 'every' and horama 'view,' and thus the -o- is an etymologically given phoneme in the compound…)

The transfer was motivated by the similarity in the arrangement of the Cinerama technique…offering a wide panoramic view which creates the illusion of depth, an illusion which is further augmented by stereophonic sound effects...

Immediately after the enthusiastic reception of Cinerama by critics and public, the liquor store next door to the theater called its window display a 'liquorama'; other names followed: audiorama, a display of acoustic instruments; Autorama, a television show; colorama, a color movie; Dekorama, an oil paint decal set; Figurama, an 'amazing new three-dimensional girdle'; Himberama, 'a 4-D show,' advertised on Times Square; motorama, an auto- mobile exhibit; newsorama, a television news program; Phonorama, a new Philco phonograph; scoutorama, a meeting of New York State Boy Scouts; sinerama, in an advertisement of the jacket of a book called Jest and Sex: 'Sexplosively Sexational Sinerama of life'; skinerama, the headline of a World-Telegram article making fun of baldness concoctions; smellorama, the 'symphony' of a 'smell organ,' in an article on experiments in sensory entertainment during the 1920s; striporama, a burlesque movie; telerama, a television show; vistarama, a new anamorphic type of wide-screen photography and projection; and Wonderama, 'the first musical of the future.'

The word Cinerama was by no means the first coinage with this ending in the twentieth century. Well known is the Futurama of the General Motors exhibit during the New York World's Fair of 1939-40, but this did not seem to create a fashion…

The meaning of this suffix is clear: 'a spectacular show or display' (the thing displayed is sometimes indicated in the stem).

John Lotz, "The suffix -rama", American Speech, Vol. 29, No. 2 (May, 1954)