London, Sept. 19, 2013
Our “man in London”, Ian Watkins, has spotted an item in a French online mag (Les Voyageurs du Soir) titled “La Whodunit, What Is It?” which delves into the question of exactly who first came up with the expression.
Here’s a rough translation of the contents of the article:
“Per Webster’s New World Dictionary the contraction Whodunit first appeared in the period between the two world wars, in 1930, from the pen of a certain Donald Gordon in the bibliographical magazine American News of Books,
“However, considerable controversy still rages about who really was the father of the expression. Thus, in the April 25, 1942 issue of the Daily Telegram its coining is attributed to having been first used in a Variety article in 1932. In an item published in the Toledo Blade on June 3, 1985, the inventor of the contraction is given as Sime Silverman in 1936 in Variety (which is patently wrong, since Sime died in 1933! PB), while another source, the Milwaukee Journal of June 10, 1946, claims it was a certain [Variety staffer) Wolf Kaufman who came up with the expression in 1935 or 1936 while writing about the film Murder of an Aristocrat, when he was seeking a term shorter than “mystery story”. The term definitely appears in the Aug. 28, 1934 issue when talking about the film adaptation of Recipe for Murder, by British writer Arnold Ridley. In any case, Variety’s use of the word Whodunit refers to a film and not a novel.”
The article goes on for another 500 words or so giving a recap of the whodunit genre, its history, and some of its most famous examples.
If anyone want to read the original French text, click on to: