"little green men"; "flying saucer"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 20 02:44:58 UTC 2011

OED has nothing before 1961. Tsk.

GB affords numerous 19th C. British exx. referring to trolls, elves,
and the like.  The following U.S. cites show too that it was used to
refer to imaginary figures supposedly seen in delirium tremens.

The 1948 is the earliest ex. that refers to denizens of outer space
and, by implication, spacemen in saucers. It suggests that still
earlier exx. may exist in comic books and pulp magazines.

1945 _San Antonio Light_ (Aug. 5) 57 [NewspArch.]: Pink elephants and
"little green men" are often seen around by those who hit the bottle
too often and too hard.

1946 _Independent Record_ (Helena, Mont.) (June 24) 4 [ibid]: [L]ittle
green men...anonymous gnomes.

1947 _Daily Register_ (Harrisburg, Ill.) (June 6) 8 [ibid.]: Little
green men do not exist solely in nightmares. According to the
Encyclopaedia Britannica, the complexions of the Punans, natives of
Borneo [etc.].

1947 _San Antonio Express_ (June 25) 6 [ibid.]: She could babble of
nothing but the fairies and little green men. [Though the term "flying
saucer" was coined within a few days of this, the reference here is to
elf-like beings. -JL]

1948 Mary Hill in _The Prospector_ (El Paso, Tex.) (Feb. 21) 2
[ibid.]: I'm afraid I'll never take a ride on a high-powered atomic
space ship and tour the Milky Way. It's  pity, because a lifetime of
reading funny books has me completely prepared to meet little green
men, life forms which exist on silicon, or entities of pure thought.

1953 _Newport [R.I.] Daily News_ (Nov. 27) 8 [ibid.]: [A]ny time now
we may expect to see a herd of pink elephants, and read that a flock
of flying saucers have landed in Times Square, N.Y., with little green
men popping out wanting to see the sights of Manhattan.

Etc., etc.

And an antedating, by about a week, of "flying saucer":

1947 _Dixon [Ill.] Eve. Telegraph_ (June 30) 1 [ibid.]: "Flying
Saucer" Controversy Is Continued; New Witnesses Report. Seattle,
Wash., June 30.- (AP) - The "flying saucer" controversy continued
today with eyewitness converts almost as numerous as the announced

[The seminal "flying saucer" report was made on June 24. This AP
dispatch is the earliest printed ex. I find. - JL]

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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