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“UFOs?” What bizarre event spawned the phrase “flying saucer?”

When was "flying saucer first used?"There’s a fresh UFO hullabaloo, and that provides the perfect opportunity to encounter the origin of “flying saucer” and “UFO.” There are no alien autopsies, abductions or crop circles in these stories, but there is no shortage of weirdness.

First, here’s the latest extraterrestrial extravaganza. A group of retired Air Force members and UFO researchers held a press conference claiming that aliens not only monitor, but have interfered with nuclear weapons around the world. No video, audio or other documentation accompanies these claims.

In June, 1947, aviator Kenneth Arnold created a media sensation after reporting a remarkable experience over Mount Rainer in Washington State. Arnold said that he encountered flashes of light and nine objects flying in a formation, flipping over occasionally and waving from side to side. He followed them and found they were traveling at an incredible speed and consisted of various shapes. Eventually, he lost sight of them and landed, sharing his experience. Word spread, and his account, to use the jargon of the Web, went viral.

In interviews with the press, Arnold described the flying objects in multiple ways, including “oval in front and convex in the rear,” and like a “pie plate.” Some unknown editor is probably responsible for the historic coinage “flying saucer.” For awhile, “flying disk” competed with “saucer” in the arena of public discourse, but we all know the winner of that linguistic duel.

UFO, “unidentified flying object,” was actually coined by the Air Force, and partly in response to the Arnold incident. Air Force Captain Edward J. Ruppelt was in charge of an official U.S. investigation of flying saucer encounters, Project Blue Book, and receives credit for the classic term. Surprisingly, Ruppelt thought UFO should be pronounced “yoo-foh.” Why? Maybe that’s how the aliens prefer it.

Here is an official Air Force definition of UFO from 1953: “any airborne object which by performance, aerodynamic characteristics, or unusual features, does not conform to any presently known aircraft or missile type, or which cannot be positively identified as a familiar object.”

Do you have other questions regarding creatures or unexplained phenomena? Let us know, and we’ll be happy to write about whatever mysteries receive the most requests.

In closing, enjoy this brief alien quiz:

What does a “foo fighter” have to do with UFOs? The answer.

What optical illusion in the sky is often considered the source of UFO sightings? The answer.

What mythological being has been compared to contemporary reports of alien encounters? The answer.

16 Comments

  1. Pathor -  July 29, 2011 - 10:19 am

    WAIT!!!! Since when are angels mythological beings. Angels are the servants of God in heaven. And God is real. Now that you can’t, or shouldn’t deny. You are poking fun at God when you say that angels are mythological beings. And that is exactly what the rest of the United States is doing. And that is why we will not stand for very much longer. God gave us this country because he wanted us to have a place that we would be able to worship him freely in. And when we start to ignore him (Like we have been doing), He brings us down. And that is what is going to happen to the United States of America very soon!

    Reply
  2. Jging -  January 12, 2011 - 7:57 am

    The question of whether or not there is life in the universe is a simple yes because of statistics. Due to the size of the universe and the number of stars chances are that yes life has found a way else where. The question as to whether or not alien life has reached our level of intelligence or better is another question. But isn’t it kind of greedy and narcissistic to think that out of the roughtly 1 septillion or 10^24 stars, we got that lucky?

    Reply
  3. Lilliana -  December 29, 2010 - 3:20 pm

    aliens are not real!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  4. Rich Durst -  December 13, 2010 - 10:34 am

    “Surprisingly, Ruppelt thought UFO should be pronounced ‘yoo-foh.’ Why?”

    Because in the U.S. military, every acronym is pronounced as a word. NORAD, SOCOM, SEAL, JDAM, MOAB, etc. Ruppelt was just following the naming convention he was familiar with.

    Reply
  5. Pugmire -  December 12, 2010 - 7:20 pm

    My Grandpa is really good friends with Kenneth Arnold, who gave the report of seeing those flying saucers. One of the first people he told were my grandparents.

    Reply
  6. Jeff -  September 30, 2010 - 7:37 pm

    There are a lot of things flying through the air that I can not identify.

    Reply
  7. The all american girl-next-door!!! -  September 30, 2010 - 8:20 am

    wow ya’ll are really weird people.

    Reply
  8. mark V -  September 30, 2010 - 8:01 am

    The common description from people who have ‘seen’ aliens is that they are 3-4 feet tall, with huge long heads, (IE: old Southpark episodes, or similar to Mars Attacks)

    Additionally, interesting theories ive heard about WHY they would go through all the trouble of sneaking around if they had the tech for planetary travel: They’re (assumed to be) a small fragile, brain-race.
    We are a race made of Schwartzeneggars and Goldbergs. Provoked into a direct confrontation, we would win so hard.

    Reply
  9. louis paiz -  September 30, 2010 - 5:16 am

    i have a chance to travel to visit the old mayan city in guatemala and admire the way the structures were done by the mayans those pyramids the exactitud they where planed , also the statues cut in pure marble ,that anyone can say or ask themselves what precision in every detail. and say well they may have had some help from visitors from other planet.

    Reply
  10. snooty snoopy -  September 30, 2010 - 1:34 am

    xenoglossy!

    Reply
  11. ms.karma -  September 29, 2010 - 6:46 pm

    i’m wondering how aliens look like. or, are they for real?

    Reply
  12. Nathan -  September 29, 2010 - 3:35 pm

    So here’s a personal story. It was a science essay question. The question was: If extraterristial life came to earth, how would we know. Well I didn’t really study much for that test and I kind of though that was a stupid question. If aliens came to this earth of course we wouldn’t know they were here. Don’t you think that if they have the technology to come here, wouldn’t they have the technology to come here unnoticed? So I answered the question and I know I got it wrong, so I started to write why the question is dumb in the first place. I got that question right. Weird.

    Reply
  13. NathanD -  September 29, 2010 - 12:57 pm

    Quiz answers:

    Dave Grohl arrived in one.

    Double rainbows.

    Larry King.

    Reply
  14. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  September 29, 2010 - 12:21 pm

    Just-so-happens I reported the discovery of a UFO in the first Pan-STARRS image (http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/press-releases/PHO/): In the second image the portion adjacent outside the corner splotch (itself a defective pixel) appears a twin-pair of darkness-correlated ‘dog-leg’ maneuvers….

    Ray.

    Reply
  15. Maddy M. -  September 29, 2010 - 12:19 pm

    Wow!!! This is so cool!

    Reply

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