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Trance24's avatar

Who came up with little green men?

Asked by Trance24 (3311points) May 19th, 2008

How did the idea of aliens being little green men with black eyes come about? Who thought of them that way?

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15 Answers

marinelife's avatar

The often used phrase “little green men” to refer to aliens may have come from Burroughs’s first book on Mars, “A Princess on Mars.” “A Princess on Mars” (written in 1911, first published hardback in 1917). He describes the “green men of Mars,” and they reappear frequently in his other Martian novels. Still, he never uses the exact phrase.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s first reference for “little green man” is from Kipling’s “Puck of Pook’s Hill” (1906). Its use here refers to an actual person who has been tattooed green, and so although it coins the phrase “little green man,” it does not appear to be a reference to aliens. The next OED reference to “little green men” is not until 1961, from Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang: “Little green men, mysterious beings alleged to have been seen emerging from flying saucers.”

AstroChuck's avatar

The thing is Burroughs’ Martians weren’t little. I think the Purple People Eaters invented the name to distract from themselves.

shrubbery's avatar

Well in the movie Signs, which I know is not necessarily a reliable source but it’s just a point, they say that if the aliens are super intelligent they don’t really need to be big and strong so they would be little with enlarged heads… not that the aliens that appear in the movie look like that anyway, but they are green… they don’t say why green though

marinelife's avatar

Correction to my post above. I was sort of thinking about something else at the time, and I failed to post the attribution and link for that article. Here is is:

shrubbery's avatar

@Marina, did you know that H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine was read on the radio in the 1930s and people who tuned in after they started thought it was a real announcement about aliens invading the earth, causing mass hysteria!

AstroChuck's avatar

It was a famous Orson Welles broadcast a day before Halloween 1938. Because the story was given in the style of a news report it caused hysteria amongst many listeners who thought that it was actually happening.

PupnTaco's avatar

Shrubbery, that was “The War if the Workds.”

AstroChuck's avatar

Yeah, you’re right. Good point. Not “The Time Machine,” but “War of the Worlds.” Same author, though.

PupnTaco's avatar

I was engaged in a War of the Typos.

shrubbery's avatar

yes sorry my bad i meant the war of the worlds. at the time i wrote that i was thinking of the essay i wrote on the time machine

jcs007's avatar

The government.

‘Green men’ gives the idea of something alien. ‘Little’ gives the idea that the alien is tiny, so it can’t hurt us.

The government is just prepping us for the Martians that are about to invade. We’ll think “awww, aren’t they cute little things. all green and all.” But in reality, they’re bloodthirsty little suckers. So then the government can step in and blow them all to hell and then the government will say “boo ya citizens! we pwned them alien things. re-elect us cuz we’re awesomez!”

and we’ll be like “naw.” and blow them to hell. damn politicians.

playthebanjo's avatar

Little green moms?

marinelife's avatar

@shrubbery Yes, I have always been fascinated by that story. Here is a link to the original broadcast if anyone wants to hear it, although today’s sophisticated media consumers will not be as terrfied as those in pre-TV land who turned to their radios for sole contact with the outside world:

cheebdragon's avatar

“Little green men, about 4 foot…........maybe they want to kick some butt…”
anyone remember that song? LOL

shrubbery's avatar

Thanks Marina! My mum has a version on record, I’m not sure if it’s the same one but she tried to make us listen to it once and didn’t realise the belt was loose so it sounded really horrible and we hated it but I realise now that it should have been faster and more exciting, we got a new belt in our record player so maybe I’ll get it out again :P

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