Thought for the day: Foo Fighter etymology

As anyone who has read a UFO book knows, the name ‘foo fighters’ was given to the balls of light that appeared to tail Allied bombers over Europe during WWII.

The lights were a source of some concern for pilots,  but were little more than a distraction for their commanders once it became clear that they weren’t a direct threat to aircraft. It’s generally thought that at least some of the foo fighters were a kind of flak or chaff. (As an aside, one of those who questioned pilots about the lights was the Goon Show and Potty Time’s Michael Bentine, then in RAF Intelligence, who took a keen interest in fortean phenomena throughout his life).

It’s generally thought that the name is a collision of ‘feu’, the French for fire, and ‘where there’s foo, there’s fire’ the catchphrase of Smokey Stover (above),  a fireman in a popular American comic strip.

But there may be another meaning to the name: ‘foo’ might be ‘feu’, fire, but it could also be ‘fou’, meaning folly or madness (as in ‘amour fou’), or even ‘faux’, meaning ‘false’. Any of these words would appropriately describe these enigmatic, playful and ultimately deceptive lights.

Just a thought.

For more on the subject there’s a good Wikipedia entry and a couple of excellent articles by Andy Roberts on the subject at Project 1947.


About Mark

Author of 'Mirage Men' & 'Far Out' and publisher/editor at Strange Attractor Press.
This entry was posted in Lore, Mirage Men Book, Technology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Thought for the day: Foo Fighter etymology

  1. Can’t help mentioning what is perhaps the most authoritative book on foo fighters:
    STRANGE COMPANY: Military Encounters with UFOs in World War II
    by Keith Chester

    After reading this book, Kevin Randle wrote: “First, we’re going to have to change the history of the UFO phenomenon. Until this book came out, we all dated the ‘modern’ era from the Kenneth Arnold sighting of June 24, 1947. It is now clear that the modern era began during the Second World War.”

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