SF in the OED, Sept. 2012

The OED’s latest update covers the range affable to always, although many of the SF terms of note in that range have already been updated (i.e. air-car and the various alternates and alternatives). There is one new SFnal term, though, and an updated one, both related.

alien life form (with a first citation from A. K. Barnes in 1937)

a form of life found on other planets, esp. an extraterrestrial being.

This is actually a run-on to the much-expanded alien (adj. and n.) entry. Relevant senses are:

adj. 4. orig. Science Fiction. Of, belonging to, or relating to an (intelligent) being or beings from another planet; designating such a being; extraterrestrial. (first citation 1929, Jack Williamson)
n. 5. orig. Science Fiction. An (intelligent) being from another planet; an extraterrestrial. (first citation, Nathan Schachner and Arthur L. Zagat, 1931)

One wonders whether their definition for alien-looking, which is defined in purely earthly terms, could be extended to include the extraterrestrial sense, although I haven’t made a search of the literature to verify this hunch. It’s also interesting to note that their defs. of alien are somewhat limited, in that aliens need not come from planets (they can come from planetoids, natural satellites, stars, even other dimensions, and so on ad infinitum), and that Earth-folk are generally referred to as aliens when on planets other than the Earth (although a quick check of BNW only shows one citation that I can say for sure refers to humans as aliens [for those keeping score at home, Frank Herbert’s Dosadi Experiment], but only because I remember the book; there are a couple more that could potentially, but I either didn’t collect them myself or don’t recall them to be able to say. Certainly there is nothing the context clearly indicates is a human alien, which is too bad; presumably I didn’t have any.).

Not science fictional, but rather fantastical, are two new adjectival forms for “Alice” (of -in-Wonderland fame):


Reminiscent of the character Alice or the books in which she appears

and Alician

Resembling or characteristic of the character Alice or the books in which she appears; fantastical, absurd, illogical.

Interestingly, these are not, apparently, completely interchangeable.

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