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12 X-Files Terms and the Truth Behind Them

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Good news, X-philes! Your favorite conspiracy show is returning to television for a six-episode “event series.” It’s been a while since The X-Files ended, so here’s a refresher on 12 terms from and about the show.

1. CIGARETTE SMOKING MAN

The mysterious and menacing Cigarette Smoking Man, or CSM, is Mulder's nemesis and a member of the Syndicate, the secret organization behind the alien conspiracy.

The CSM has had some name changes over the series. At first he's referred to as Cancer Man, but in season three, Mulder calls him Skinner’s “cigarette-smoking friend." Season four aired an episode called “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man,” and later that same season, Mulder calls him “cigarette man.” In season six, he's finally called “cigarette smoking man.”

Why Cancer Man became Cigarette Smoking Man is unclear, although there’s speculation that show creator Chris Carter did so to avoid offending the tobacco industry.

2. DEEP THROAT

Deep Throat is the alias of a Syndicate member who is also an informant to Mulder. His pseudonym comes from the real-life Deep Throat, a Watergate informant who in 2005 was revealed to be FBI associate director Mark Felt. Felt took his nom de guerre from the 1972 porn film of the same name. After The X-Files’ Deep Throat is killed, an informant named X replaces him. This could be an homage to the informant Mr. X in Oliver Stone’s JFK, which, Carter has said, inspired the Deep Throat character.

3. GREYS

Greys is common vernacular for a kind of alien also known as Grey aliens and Roswell Greys. The term seems to have originated in the 1980s. In the X-Files universe, Greys are also known as Colonists, extra-terrestrials who want to colonize the Earth. Faceless aliens are shapeshifting renegades opposed to the Colonists (although why is not clear) while super-soldiers are aliens that have taken over human bodies, have tremendous strength, and will stop at nothing to ensure no human survives alien colonization.

4. LONE GUNMEN

The Lone Gunmen are a trio of conspiracy theorists who publish a magazine called The Lone Gunman. They take their name from the lone gunman theory, which says Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in assassinating John F. Kennedy. Conspiracy theorists believe otherwise.

5. MEN IN BLACK

The idea of ebony-clad men appearing after UFO sightings originated in the 1950s, according to Live Science. Albert Bender, a UFO enthusiast and magazine publisher, claimed that “he had been visited by ‘three men wearing dark suits’ who ordered him not to continue publishing information about flying saucers.”

Folklorist Gray Barker wrote about Bender’s story in the 1956 book, They Knew Too Much about Flying Saucers, which describes “three men in black suits with threatening expressions on their faces.”

The X-Files’ Men in Black were played by professional wrestler-cum-governor Jesse Ventura and game show host Alex Trebek.

6. MONSTER OF THE WEEK

Monster of the Week, or MOTW, refers to one-off episodes that weren't part of the larger UFO storyline, and include "The Jersey Devil"; "War of the Coprophagous" (a coprophage is a dung-eater, in this case, a cockroach); and "Home," a highly disturbing account of the, shall we say, close-knit Peacock family.

The term monster of the week may have originated in the early 1970s. This 1976 magazine mentions the phrase as does this book from 1985, which connects it to the 1960s Japanese TV show, Ultraman, which featured a different monster nearly every episode.

7. MULDER IT OUT

A phrase that should definitely be used more often, to Mulder something out means to figure out a secret, a cover-up, or a conspiracy. Science fiction and fantasy author Jim Butcher uses the phrase in his 2003 novel, Death Masks: “You guys stay here and Mulder it out.”

8. PURITY

A viscous alien virus also known as black oil and black cancer, Purity “thrived in petroleum deposits” on Earth and “was capable of entering humanoids” and controlling their bodies. Fans dubbed the oily alien Oilien.

9. SCULLY

To Scully means to behave like the skeptical half of the X-Files duo, namely by explaining away potentially paranormal phenomena with science and logic. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the first to use Scully in this way. “I cannot believe that you of all people are trying to Scully me,” Buffy tells Giles in the 1997 episode, “The Pack.”

10. SHIPPER

A term that comes out of X-Files fan fiction, a shipper is someone who wants platonic fictional characters to have a romantic relationship. Those against Mulder and Scully being more than FBI friends were known as noromos, short for “no romance.” Shipping now refers to wanting any two people to get together, for example: “How much did we all start shipping Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emma Watson when they walked out onstage together?”

11. X-FILES

In case you’re wondering, the FBI doesn’t really have an X-files, but the Washington State Legislature does. Although probably named for the show, Washington state's X-files isn’t about UFOs or other unexplained phenomena but “bills that will go no further in the process.” X-files is also slang for a type of ecstasy as well as haemorrhoids. Apparently, X-files is Cockney rhyming slang for piles, which are, you guessed it, haemorrhoids.

12. X-PHILE

An X-phile is an X-Files fan, where the suffix -phile means “one that loves” and is a pun on file. The term seems to have originated in the mid-1990s.

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11 Ridiculously Overdue Library Books (That Were Finally Returned)
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Last week, Massachusetts's Attleboro Public Library received a big surprise when one of its regular patrons returned a copy of T.S. Arthur's The Young Lady at Home ... more than 78 years after it had been checked out. 

The man, whose name was not revealed, was reportedly helping a friend clean out his basement when he came across the tome. He recognized the library's stamp, then noticed its original due date: November 21, 1938. “We were amazed,” said Amy Rhilinger, the library’s assistant director. “I’ve worked here for 15 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Because the library charges $.10 per day for overdue books, the total bill for this dusty read would come to about $2800—but the library isn't planning to cash in. “We’re not the library police," Rhilinger said. "We’re not tracking everyone’s things. Everyone returns things a few [days] late, and it’s one thing we joke about here.”

Though it's rare, the decades-overdue book's return is not unprecedented. Here are 11 more tardy returns.

1. The Versatile Grain and the Elegant Bean: A Celebration of the World’s Most Healthful Foods by Sheryl and Mel London

LOANED FROM: The Lawrence Public Library in Lawrence, Kansas
YEARS OVERDUE: 21

In 2014, someone anonymously returned this fitness-friendly cookbook, which had been missing since September 24, 1992. The volume, published that April, contains over 300 recipes—and it’s probably safe to assume that the culprit had plenty of time to try out every single one of them.

2. The Real Book About Snakes by Jane Sherman

LOANED FROM: The Champaign County Library in Urbana, Ohio 
YEARS OVERDUE: 41

Like the previous entry, whoever turned in this musty old field guide declined to reveal his name. But lest anyone question the man’s honesty, he also left the following note: “Sorry I’ve kept this book so long, but I’m a really slow reader! I’ve enclosed my fine of $299.30 (41 years, 2 cents a day). Once again, my apologies!”

3. Days and Deeds: A Book of Verse for Children’s Reading and Speaking compiled by Burton and Elizabeth Stevenson

LOANED FROM: The Kewanee Public Library in Kewanee, Illinois
YEARS OVERDUE: 47

According to Guinness World Records, the $345.14 fee paid by the borrower of this lyrical compilation stands as the highest library fine ever paid.

4. The Fire of Francis Xavier by Arthur R. McGratty

LOANED FROM: The New York Public Library, Fort Washington Branch, in New York, New York
YEARS OVERDUE: 55

In 2013, this one was discreetly mailed in and the perpetrator was never brought to justice (be on guard, Big Apple bibliophiles).

5. The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

LOANED FROM: The Rugby Library in Warwick, England 
YEARS OVERDUE: 63

The item found its way home during an eight-day “fines amnesty period,” which shielded the guilty patron from a £4000 penalty. “It’s amazing to think how much the library has changed since that book was taken out in 1950,” said librarian Joanna Girdle. 

6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

LOANED FROM: The Chicago Public Library in Chicago, Illinois 
YEARS OVERDUE: 78

Harlean Hoffman Vision found a rare edition of this novel nestled amongst her late mother’s personal effects and vowed to set things right. “She kept saying, ‘You’re not going to arrest me?’” recalled marketing director Ruth Lednicer, “and we said, ‘No, we’re so happy you brought it back.’”

7. Master of Men by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Amazon, Public Domain

LOANED FROM: The Leicester County Library in Leicester, England
YEARS OVERDUE: 79

Oppenheim was born in the surrounding region and, hence, the Leicestershire County Council was thrilled to reclaim this piece of their literary heritage after it turned up in a nearby house—even though the library branch it originally belonged to had shut down decades earlier.

8. Facts I Ought to Know About the Government of My Country by William H. Bartlett

Amazon, Public Domain

LOANED FROM: The New Bedford Public Library in New Bedford, Massachusetts
YEARS OVERDUE: 99

Stanley Dudek of Mansfield, Massachusetts claims that his mother—a Polish immigrant—decided to brush up on American politics by borrowing this volume from the New Bedford Library in 1910. “For a person who was just becoming a citizen, it was the perfect book for her,” says Dudek.

9. Insectivorous Plants by Charles Darwin

LOANED FROM: The Camden School of Arts Lending Library in Sydney, Australia
YEARS OVERDUE: 122

An Australian copy of Darwin’s treatise on bug-eating flora was borrowed in 1889. After two World Wars, Neil Armstrong’s moon landing, and the birth of the internet, it was finally returned on July 22, 2011.

10. The Ancient History of the Egyptians, Carthaginians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Medes and Persians, Macedonians, and Grecians (volume II) by Charles Rollin

LOANED FROM: The Grace Doherty Library in Danville, Kentucky
YEARS OVERDUE: 150 (approximately)

In 2013, this tome was discovered at a neighboring school for the deaf, where it had presumably been stored since 1854 (as evidenced by a note written inside dating to that year). The library owns no records from this period, so exactly how long it was gone is anybody’s guess, but, said librarian Stan Campbell, “It’s been out of the library for at least 150 years."

11. The Law of Nations by Emmerich de Vattel

LOANED FROM: The New York Society Library in New York City
YEARS OVERDUE: 221

Five months into his first presidential term, George Washington borrowed this legal manifesto from the historic New York Society Library. For the next 221 years, it remained stowed away at his Virginia home, and organization officials wondered if they’d ever see it again. “We’re not actively pursuing overdue fines,” joked head librarian Mark Bartlett. “But we would be very happy to see the book returned.” His wish was granted when Mount Vernon staff finally sent it back in 2010 (luckily, they dodged a whopping $300,000 late fee).

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2014.

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11 Popular Quotes Commonly Misattributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald
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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a lot of famous lines, from musings on failure in Tender is the Night to “so we beat on, boats against the current” from The Great Gatsby. Yet even with a seemingly never-ending well of words and beautiful quotations, many popular idioms and phrases are wrongly attributed to the famous Jazz Age author, who was born on this day in 1896. Here are 11 popular phrases that are often misattributed to Fitzgerald. (You may need to update your Pinterest boards.)

1. “WRITE DRUNK, EDIT SOBER.”

This quote is often attributed to either Fitzgerald or his contemporary, Ernest Hemingway, who died in 1961. There is no evidence in the collected works of either writer to support that attribution; the idea was first associated with Fitzgerald in a 1996 Associated Press story, and later in Stephen Fry’s memoir More Fool Me. In actuality, humorist Peter De Vries coined an early version of the phrase in a 1964 novel titled Reuben, Reuben.

2. “FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE OR, IN MY CASE, TOO EARLY TO BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE.”

It’s easy to see where the mistake could be made regarding this quote: Fitzgerald wrote the short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 1922 for Collier's Magazine, and it was adapted into a movie of the same name, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in 2008. Eric Roth wrote the screenplay, in which that quotation appears.

3. “OUR LIVES ARE DEFINED BY OPPORTUNITIES, EVEN THE ONES WE MISS.”

This is a similar case to the previous quotation; this quote is attributed to Benjamin Button’s character in the film adaptation. It’s found in the script, but not in the original short story.

4. “YOU’LL UNDERSTAND WHY STORMS ARE NAMED AFTER PEOPLE.”

There is no evidence that Fitzgerald penned this line in any of his known works. In this Pinterest pin, it is attributed to his novel The Beautiful and Damned. However, nothing like that appears in the book; additionally, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Association, although there were a few storms named after saints, and an Australian meteorologist was giving storms names in the 19th century, the practice didn’t become widespread until after 1941. Fitzgerald died in 1940.

5. “A SENTIMENTAL PERSON THINKS THINGS WILL LAST. A ROMANTIC PERSON HAS A DESPERATE CONFIDENCE THAT THEY WON’T.”

This exact quote does not appear in Fitzgerald’s work—though a version of it does, in his 1920 novel This Side of Paradise:

“No, I’m romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t. Sentiment is emotional.” The incorrect version is widely circulated and requoted.

6. “IT’S A FUNNY THING ABOUT COMING HOME. NOTHING CHANGES. EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME, FEELS THE SAME, EVEN SMELLS THE SAME. YOU REALIZE WHAT’S CHANGED IS YOU.”

This quote also appears in the 2008 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button script, but not in the original short story.

7. “GREAT BOOKS WRITE THEMSELVES; ONLY BAD BOOKS HAVE TO BE WRITTEN.”

There is no evidence of this quote in any of Fitzgerald’s writings; it mostly seems to circulate on websites like qotd.org, quotefancy.com and azquotes.com with no clarification as to where it originated.

8. “SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT LIKE THOSE GIRLS IN THE MAGAZINES. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE WAY SHE THOUGHT. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR THE SPARKLE IN HER EYES WHEN SHE TALKED ABOUT SOMETHING SHE LOVED. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL FOR HER ABILITY TO MAKE OTHER PEOPLE SMILE, EVEN IF SHE WAS SAD. NO, SHE WASN’T BEAUTIFUL FOR SOMETHING AS TEMPORARY AS HER LOOKS. SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL, DEEP DOWN TO HER SOUL.”

This quote may have originated in a memoir/advice book published in 2011 by Natalie Newman titled Butterflies and Bullshit, where it appears in its entirety. It was attributed to Fitzgerald in a January 2015 Thought Catalog article, and was quoted as written by an unknown source in Hello, Beauty Full: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You by Elisa Morgan, published in September 2015. However, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald said or wrote anything like it.

9. “AND IN THE END, WE WERE ALL JUST HUMANS, DRUNK ON THE IDEA THAT LOVE, ONLY LOVE, COULD HEAL OUR BROKENNESS.”

Christopher Poindexter, the successful Instagram poet, wrote this as part of a cycle of poems called “the blooming of madness” in 2013. After a Twitter account called @SirJayGatsby tweeted the phrase with no attribution, it went viral as being attributed to Fitzgerald. Poindexter has addressed its origin on several occasions.

10. “YOU NEED CHAOS IN YOUR SOUL TO GIVE BIRTH TO A DANCING STAR.”

This poetic phrase is actually derived from the work of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who died in 1900, just four years after Fitzgerald was born in 1896. In his book Thus Spake ZarathustraNietzsche wrote the phrase, “One must have chaos within to enable one to give birth to a dancing star.” Over time, it’s been truncated and modernized into the currently popular version, which was included in the 2009 book You Majored in What?: Designing Your Path from College to Career by Katharine Brooks.

11. “FOR THE GIRLS WITH MESSY HAIR AND THIRSTY HEARTS.”

This quote is the dedication in Jodi Lynn Anderson’s book Tiger Lily, a reimagining of the classic story of Peter Pan. While it is often attributed to Anderson, many Tumblr pages and online posts cite Fitzgerald as its author.

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