Fictional Materials for OED

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Apr 30 19:11:59 UTC 2014

On Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 3:04 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> On Wed, Apr 30, 2014 at 8:32 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at>wrote:
> > CNN this a.m.: "The technology does not exist! It's made of unobtainium!"
> >
> "This happens in the genre so often that there is even a generic word for
> it: unobtainium."
> Foreward (?) of E[dward] E[lmer] Smith, The Skylark of Space, 1928.

That introduction was written in 2001, unfortunately.

I wrote about "unobtainium" when the movie "Avatar" came out, and
noted that Paul Dickson's "Dictionary of the Space Age" dates it back
to 1958, in Woodford Heflin's "Interim Glossary, Aero-Space Terms":

Michael Quinion gives the same cite:


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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