ByEric Hanson, writer at Creators.co
Eric Hanson holds a Bachelor's in Film Studies. Some of his favorite films include To Kill a Mockingbird, 2001, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Eric Hanson

In 1986, the world of cinema was rocked by the release of 's , the stunning sequel to 's 1979 masterpiece. Nobody expected anyone to follow 's success, but Cameron's film proved the concept had enough legs to make a series, one that is continuing with the upcoming release of . However, the film contains one line whose meaning was misinterpreted, and the resulting fallout has confused fans of the series ever since.

Lt. Gorman, played by William Hope, leads his squad to a universe of horrors in 'Aliens.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Lt. Gorman, played by William Hope, leads his squad to a universe of horrors in 'Aliens.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

The line comes early in the film when the Marines are being prepped for what they believe is a routine mission. Lt. Gorman, played by William Hope, lays out the mission for his squad:

"All we know is that there's still no contact with the colony and that a xenomorph may be involved."

When one of the Marines asks what he means, Gorman repeats himself:

An alien closes in on Ellen Ripley. 'Aliens' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
An alien closes in on Ellen Ripley. 'Aliens' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

Many interpreted that line as being the official name for the creature, something that has continued to influence the franchise. The name has appeared in games, comics, figures, novels — pretty much everything in the expanded universe uses "xenomorph" as the name for everyone's favorite cosmic horror of acid-bleeding death. Yet, it was never intended to be that. To understand why, you need only look at the word's meaning.

"Xenomorph" is a Greek construct. "Xeno" simply means "Strange" or "Foreign" and "Morph" means "Form" or "Shape" and so forth. So, the literal translation of "xenomorph" is simply "foreign form." In other words, it's just a fancy way of saying "unknown life form." It really just means "alien."

So why does Gorman use this line instead of just calling it "alien"? Answer: It was intended as character development.

Lt. Gorman is portrayed as an incompetent leader. 'Aliens' [Credit: 20th Century Fox}
Lt. Gorman is portrayed as an incompetent leader. 'Aliens' [Credit: 20th Century Fox}

Lt. Gorman is portrayed as inept and incompetent. He doesn't sit and mingle with his troops, misidentifies Private Hudson for Corporal Hicks, and when the aliens finally show up and slaughter his squad, he freezes up, leaving the heroic Ripley to do his job for him. To top it off, he's only been on two combat drops — including this one.

This expository scene is really about Gorman's character. He uses a fancy term for the creature in an attempt to woo his squad with his supposed intelligence instead of just saying "alien." This scene was just one more example of Gorman putting on a show to hide his weakness. To quote the late Frost, the scene shows "the boy's definitely got a corncob up his ass."

Now that we all know the truth, does it make any difference? Will people finally just realize that "xenomorph" is just a fancy way of saying "alien"? Maybe not. For the time being, "xenomorph" appears to have stuck like the nickname to a friend or favorite pet. Hopefully, fans and creators in the EU will soon realize this and lay off the gas a bit. When you know what the name actually means, hearing someone say "xeno" isn't quite as menacing.

"Watch out everyone! The Stranges are attacking!"

Private Hudson in 'Aliens.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Private Hudson in 'Aliens.' [Credit: 20th Century Fox]

Since we're here, when Hudson said "bug hunt" he meant "wild goose chase." So, calling the Alien a "bug" makes just about as little sense.

Poll

Do you think "xenomorph" is a good name or should it die with Gorman? Let us know in the comments below!


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