"tinfoil hat brigade"

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Wed Feb 1 17:50:29 UTC 2006

Might the notion of "tinfoil hat" (not necessarily the phrase itself)
go back to the 1947 Roswell "UFO crash"?  The retrieved object was
described as "tin-foil covered."  Also, (as AM wrote; see also Doug
Wilson), my recollection is of "the foil's capacity to ward off
endangering rays of some sort" and perhaps earlier than 1983.

Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>FWIW, I've never seen anyone wearing a tinfoil hat.

Except in a movie?  I have no idea which, but if so it might be
earlier than 1983.


At 2/1/2006 12:22 PM, you wrote:
>         From a review of the 1983 movie Lovesick, in the 2/19/1983 Miami
>Herald (via Westlaw):  "There is more involved in this romance than a
>striking violation of professional ethics, though the film does concede
>that; along the way, a marriage is smashed, a suicidal patient is
>abandoned, and a derelict is turned out into the street, wearing a
>tin-foil hat to keep the Trade-Center beams off his brain."
>         I'm not sure if this one shows that the practice goes back to
>1979, or that tinfoil hats still were thought only to be a novelty in
>1986; maybe both.  From the 11/10/1986 issue of People (via Westlaw):
>"On July 4, 1979, Linda Kozlowski, ''dressed up like a Martian with a
>tinfoil cone on my head,'' was hawking ''Skylab protective helmets'' to
>crowds watching fireworks from Manhattan's West Side Highway. At $5 a
>pop, she sold out her entire supply of the whimsical cardboard headgear.
>None too soon, either. Seven days later Skylab -- the space station that
>had begun losing altitude after six years in orbit -- finally fell to
>earth. Perhaps Kozlowski has a shrewd eye for novelties."
>John Baker
>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
>Of Benjamin Zimmer
>Sent: Wednesday, February 01, 2006 11:22 AM
>Subject: Re: "tinfoil hat brigade"
>On 2/1/06, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at yahoo.com> wrote:
> > FWIW, my first encounter with the phrase and concept "tinfoil hat" was
> > within the past few years, possibly only since 2000.
>sci.med, Nov 14 1991
>Double blind tests are so tedious.  Why not try a magnet on one arm, a
>copper bracelet on the other, a protective tin foil cap and a garlic
>amulet around the neck.
>sci.physics, Oct 8 1992
>Larry "I wear this tin-foil hat to protect myself from N-rays" Hammer
>sci.med, Dec 16 1992
> >I recommend wearing a hat when you go out into the sun from now on.
>Yes, and be sure to line it with tinfoil to keep out the cosmic rays.
>sci.skeptic, Mar 10 1993
>Hey, we've ALL got our own tin foil hats. If they aren't a filter for
>"secret rays," they're a filter for perception, culture,  or taste.
>--Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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