Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Well, here we go again. Another reason to dislike Ufology. This time I find myself engaged in a discussion over semantics. I have to wonder what is the proper terminology for these things that people claim are buzzing around Earth. And this is just another part of a much larger, societal problem with nearly everyone requiring everyone else conform to their personal beliefs and to use their personal terminology, sometimes under penalty of law (or thoughts of changing laws for that purpose, but I digress already).

Steve Bassett suggested during my recent interview with him that his preferred term for what we all think of as UFOs is UAP, standing for unidentified aerial object. Back years ago there were those who made the argument that UFO suggested two things that might not be true. That is, these things were objects and they were flying. UAP didn’t suffer from those preconditions and was, therefore, a much better term.

But even before we got to UFO, there were the Foo Fighters, a name which conjured up no sort of image or preconceived notion. Foo Fighter was something that airmen on all sides of the war saw that they couldn’t identify. When World War II ended, interest in the Foo Fighters and their origin ended and that name didn’t translate into anything that was coming in the near future.

Arnold's "Flying Saucer."
We, of course, here in the United States, started out with flying saucer, based on Ken Arnold’s description of the motion of the things he saw as opposed to their actual shape. Others thought that flying disk was a better description. I’m not really sure I understand the difference… both came to mean (please note the qualifier) alien spacecraft. That wasn’t the only definition back in 1947, it just evolved into that.

Although Ed Ruppelt is credited with creating the term, unidentified flying object, a review of the Project Blue Book (Project Sign and Project Grudge documents that are all a part of the Blue Book files) shows that others might have used the term or a variation of the term without really suggesting it was the definitive definition of what was being seen and reported. These records mention unidentified objects and the like without making this an official designation.

Ruppelt told us about the distinction between the terms, or as he defined the distinctions, when he was leading Blue Book. In serious matters, it was UFO or unidentified flying object, and when attempting to ridicule the whole thing it was those flying saucers, probably said with a sneer or a smirk.

There was a point during Blue Book and during the mountains of paper generated by this topic which wasn’t supposed to be important but seemed to attract a lot of attention, the acronym became UFOB, for unidentified flying object. I don’t know why they attached the “B” to it. Taking this to its ultimate
A "true" UNIFLOB
conclusion, I designated then as uniflobs, which just grabbed a bunch of the letters from unidentified flying objects and strung them together.

Coral Lorenzen was also unhappy with the connotations that calling them flying saucers created so she preferred UAO, which stood for unidentified aerial object. We can look at back issues of The A.P.R.O. Bulletin in the late 1960s to see this. For example, in the July/August 1967 issue was the headline, “UAO Struck Automobile in Ohio.” She soon tired of this, probably because it was a battle that she would never win and reverted to the conventional UFO a couple of years later.

At some point, and I don’t know what that point is, others, unhappy with UFO, created UAP, as mentioned. This has been around for a while but has never grabbed the status of UFO, probably for the same reason that Lorenzen’s UAO failed. It just didn’t seem to have the pizazz of UFO and by the time she attempted to shift to UAO, it was too late. That’s probably going to happen to UAP.

I mention all this because there are those out there now that think we need to rethink the name of these alleged alien spacecraft. Those at the Academy to the Stars have come up with their own acronym, AAV. This stands for Anomalous Aerial Vehicle. I’m not sure that it does anything other than disguise what we are talking about from those who haven’t kept up with the latest trends, which again, in the world today, is filled with the latest trends.

I will point out that this new name doesn’t suffer from all the problems of UFO but that it does assume that what we’re talking about isn’t just an object but is a vehicle. It seems to presuppose that these anomalous (unidentified) aerial (flying, but not in the same way that flying suggests an operation… it just means it’s in the sky) vehicles (which is worse than object because a vehicle suggests a manufactured ship rather than object would could be a meteor, or a cloud, or a bird) are someone’s’ craft.

This is all driven, to some extent, by an attempt to disguise what we’re really talking about. No, it’s not UFOs, it’s AAVs. Somehow this change will slip by those with open eyes and be fooled that we’re not talking about alien visitation but something of more scientific. We’re not studying UFOs, we’re studying AAVs. Is there really a difference, other than the letters in the acronym?

I just thought I would mention this history of the ever changing name and point out that UFO is probably here to stay, no matter what some of us attempt to do. If I had my way, I’d stick with uniflob, but only because it suggests that we don’t take ourselves so seriously that we can’t see the irony of changing the name as if that will change the outside perception.

Update 1:

From Chris Rutkowski (which makes this even worse):

Back in 1980, the term TOPA was suggested by a scientist as a replacement for UFO, to make it more acceptable by the scientific community.

Oddly enough, he was ignored.


Jeff Miller said...

For what it's worth, the first appearance of "UFO" found in a search at newspapers.com seems to be an article appearing in newspapers on Oct. 11, 1953, by Donald E. Keyhoe: "By the time Coleman finished recalibrating, the blips of four UFO's (unidentified flying objects) were racing across his screen."

The earliest citation for UFO in the Oxford English Dictionary is from an article by Donald Keyhoe in the journal Air Line Pilot in Oct. 1953. I don't know whether it is the same article that is in the newspapers.

Jeff Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sugarraytaylor said...

Thank you for voicing your opinion on this Kevin. I have had a huge problem with this obsession that “The Field” should do away with the term UFO as it has “negative connotations”. I have long voiced this opinion on comment sections and message boards as I see it as delusional and something that is really not needed right now. It doesn’t matter what fancy label someone gives an object in the Sky, or what label some organisations begin to use going forward if they are doing it with the intent of ridding the negative connotations associated with the word UFO from the discussion, because people will always source the “new” term back to UFO, period. UFO is here to stay let’s get over it for Christ’s sake.

Even in itself UFO has problems with semantics. Myself when I think of UFO I think unidentifiable, could easily be another nations craft, could easily be atmospheric phenomena or the boys in Phoenix messing around with flares again. But ironically, it’s the die hard skeptics who cling to the alien spacecraft interpretation. Once on Don Eckers old show, UFOs tonight, I think it was, he had on a bright young man with a PhD who was going to put this UFOlogy stuff in order and solve it for all of us. That man’s name was Michael Schermer and in the first five minutes of the show Don explained to him that in Don’s mind “UFO” (and the phenomena in general) did not mean alien spacecraft but simply unidentified and he wanted to simply know whatever was behind this phenomena earthly or alien origin. Well Dr Schermer struggled with that fact for the next hour and couldn’t seem to understand that one of these “UFO guys” did not necessarily mean alien when talking UFO. It was a very funny interview and one that showed even that the skeptics cling to the Alien origin interpretation of UFO as much as a true believer does.

So let’s stop with the endless nonsense over these phrases, how about we just do solid work and all pull in the right direction and perhaps one day there will be a 100% undeniable answer to the UFO enigma, whatever it may be. Clinging onto delusional viewpoints and creating new ones only clouds the issue, thank you once again Mr Bassett.

cda said...

There is also the matter of "Ufology". An "ology" has evolved from an acronym. If we adopt 'AAV' instead of 'UFO' can you envisage the term "Aavology"? I can't. It almost suggests the study of aardvarks. (Notice I said "almost").

Clarence said...

..personally, I like "UFO": it's very old school and *everyone* knows immediately what you are referring to....

Brian B said...

I do believe “UFO” is here to stay simply because it’s engrained in modern cultural terminology. It’s hard to shift something like that worldwide.

I don’t think “UFO” is ALWAYS (as claimed) purposely pushed by skeptics for the reason of debunking any event by associating it with “aliens”.

Like many believe, a “UFO” is merely something observed in the sky that appears to be flying (even though it might be hovering, gliding, or beaming on and off) that can’t be immediately identified.

I think that’s fine.

“AAV” is very odd in that it implies EVERYTHING observed is truly a “vehicle” and that’s simply not the case.

For example, some UFOs appear to be geomagnetic light anomalies—not nuts and bolts spacecraft.

So if the terminology was changed to UAP or AAV, what would become of “USOs”?

Do they become USPs, or ASVs?

Or should they be “Anomalous Underwater Vehicles” (AUVs), or perhaps “Unidentified Underwater Vehicles”(UUVs), or even UUPs?

Like “aardvarkology”, does that now make some investigators “upsologists”?


Richard said...

I always thought that UAP stood for unidentified aerial phenomenon.
I prefer this term as it doesn't have the negative connotation that UFO has