Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Delicious Miss Flying Saucer

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There’s so much amazing about this “Miss Flying Saucer” artwork by Bill Randall, but let’s stick with what makes us psychosocial pelicanists cheer. You see, the sexy space cadet is on top of an actual saucer. Not an alien spaceship, but a plain simple, pink saucer dinnerware. It’s either a giant saucer, or Miss Flying Saucer is a tiny fairy-like being. Either way, that makes psychosocial pelicanists happy.

Why, would one ask. Is it a fetish of sorts? Not exactly. This has in fact a lot to say about the origin of ufology and in particular, the term “flying saucer”.

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In “Saucer ExpansionMartin Kottmeyer remarks how, surprisingly, most reports from the 1947 wave of flying saucers in Canada and the USA had them of a very small size, of 3 feet or less. In the graphic above, Kottmeyer illustrates how the reported size for flying saucers, which would soon be called UFOs, increased gradually, and nowadays it’s actually rare to read description of very tiny objects.

Why, would one ask. Is it an alien fashion of sorts? Probably not. Kottmeyer quotes Ed Stewart suggestion that “Saucer descriptions in the news stories made reference to table top cups and saucers which could have implanted a small size in the readers mind when they read the initial stories.”

That is, people were seeing actual flying dinnerware in the sky. Only with later sci-fi movies which depicted large (Day Earth Stood Still) and then gigantic (Close Encounters) alien spaceships would people come to report larger UFOs.

There’s corroborating evidence for this psychosocial pelicanist interpretation. In Brazil, the term “flying saucer” was translated as “disco voador”, or “flying disk”, no one here speaks in terms of dinnerware when referring to aliens. On the other hand, “flying disk” would immediately remind people of the late 1940s and early 1950s of vinyl records.

And that’s exactly what they reported. Historian Rodolpho Gauthier also collected some news clippings of the first UFO waves in Brazil, and though no detailed statistical analysis was conducted, from Gauthier’s work one can find several references to small flying disks and even funny cartoons comparing flying disks with small vinyl records thrown in the air.

Well, back to Miss Flying Saucer. Unfortunately I couldn’t find when exactly did Bill Randall created that amazing illustration, the closest was this commentary from The Pinup Blog (NSFW) that “I could only guess that these pinups were painted between 1946 and the 1960’s”.

Here’s one prediction from the Psychosocial Hypothesis: given that Randall referenced an actual saucer, I would guess it was made shortly after Arnold’s sighting in 1947 and before 1952, when the term UFO would enter the mainstream.

Whatever flies in the sky, whether there are aliens visiting us or not, everything that we see, we see through our cultural lenses. Those can be quite funny just a few decades later. A few decades from now, people may laugh about our reports of giant spaceships.

Do not miss: “Saucer Expansion” by Martin Kottmeyer. [via x-ray delta one on flickr]

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Posted in Skepticism,UFOs | 9 comments

9 Comments so far

  1. Ian May 14th, 2010 3:10 pm

    I always like how “flying saucer” got coined. Arnold never claimed to see saucer shaped objects. Only that they moved like “saucers skipping on a lake” (paraphrase). The press coined the term “flying saucers” and SHAZAM people started seeing discs. And that’s all you need to know to understand that it’s all BS.

  2. Kazoon May 15th, 2010 4:50 pm

    as a matter of fact, there was many reports of ‘teardrop’-shaped, ‘cigar-shaped’ and even triangle-shaped back in the early days of ufology. maybe ALL reports of ‘flying saucers’ are BS (a reducionist standpoint, IMO)… but what to make of the rest?

  3. Mori May 15th, 2010 7:10 pm

    I don’t think they are all BS, but as I wrote, whatever people see, and most importantly, then remember, they see through a lot of filters. Taking reports literally is clearly not the right thing to do.

  4. spookyparadigm May 17th, 2010 8:39 pm

    I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if

    – Even forgetting the smaller ones taking linguistic inspiration from dinnerware, that there is a relationship between the size of many UFO reports, and the size of well known aircraft at any given time. Commercial and military aircraft have generally gotten larger, with the exception of the recent proliferation of drones, as have UFOs.

    – Likewise, reports of squadrons of craft flying in formation were fairly common in the first decades of flying saucers/UFOs. Kenneth Arnold’s report is a perfect example, but not the only one. Such reports are not unknown today, but they are less common. Seems like this would mirror the changes in military tactics and equipment, with the mass formations of WWII giving way to smaller numbers of planes much farther apart from each other.

  5. Craig York May 21st, 2010 12:56 pm

    Wonderful pin-up! The origin of the term “Flying Saucer” may not be tied as strongly to Arnol’d sighting and the press as
    is commonly supposed. I recall seeing an article at either
    Magonia, or Project 1947, which sited a number of pre-1947
    instances of the term ( all from newspapers, if I remember rightly ) which was apparently fairly common…in Skeet
    shooting
    .

  6. Richard Leschen May 28th, 2010 9:33 pm

    Dear Sir,
    I have fallen in love with Miss Flying Saucer, she’s a real peach for sure.

  7. Les liens du dimanche | ufofu May 30th, 2010 7:40 am

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  8. […] Martin S. Kottmeyer sur l’évolution de la taille des soucoupes au cours de l’histoire ufologique. (via Forgetomori) […]

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