Simanaitis Says

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TODAY’S TIDBIT COLLECTION traces back to Roald Dahl’s book about gremlins described two days ago at SimanaitisSays, continued yesterday with ”Gremlin Tidbits Part 1.”

Actually, though, all this began a couple weeks ago when reader Bill Urban shared a neat photo of a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress, of which more anon here. First, let’s learn about the entire gremlin clan.

Gremlin. As described yesterday, gremlins lost their ancestral forest idyll when it was supplanted by an airplane factory. Thus, their propensity for causing mechanical mayhem in aircraft. By 1943, gremlins were appearing in non-aircraft context as well.

Image of World War II poster from

A fifinella is a female gremlin. Her wiles can be particularly effective, such as tickling bombardiers right when they’re lined up for a good run.

A fifinella. Image from The Gremlins.

Fifinella became the official mascot of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, civilian women ferrying military aircraft during World War II. WASPs had other predecessor organizations, the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, and Army Air Force Flying Training Detachment.

Fifinella patch, 318th Army Air Force Flying Training Detachment.

Fifinella also appeared as nose art on U.S. military aircraft, including this Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Later, in the Korean War, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress carried a fifinella portrait as well.

Boeing B-17 “Fifinella.” Image from National Air and Space Museum.

I thank reader Bill Urban for bringing this photo to my attention. Its caption, from the National Air and Space Museum, reads in part, “The first Fifinella was reported at Kelly Field, TX, around 1923. The RAF saw the first one in England in 1928, and since then every Air Force in the world has had them…. The Fifinella are exceptionally beautiful and live off the pimento stuffing found in Martini olives, which give them the delicate complexions.”

Dahl noted that an original Fifinella was the great “flying filly” that won the Derby and Epsom Oaks in 1916, the year of his birth.

Used Postage Stamps are the preferred food of gremlins; or so says Dahl. He does not cite the fifinella preference for pimentos.

Widgets are male offspring of gremlins and fifinellas. They are not to be confused with today’s software of small apps designed to provide specific pieces of information. In fact, I suspect gremlin widgets provide nothing but chaos.

Families of gremlins, fifinellas, widgets, and flibbertigibbets. Image from The Gremlins.

Flibbertigibbets are female children. According to Merriam-Webster, the word “flibbertigibbet” comes from Middle English flepegebet, meaning a “gossip” or “chatterer.” In King Lear, Shakespeare’s flibbertigibbet was a devil. In Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth, Flibbertigibbet was an impish urchin. M-W says today the word means only a “silly flighty person.” Perhaps “flighty” in the gremlin sense?

Again, I thank Bill Urban for setting me onto this course of research. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2018

3 comments on “GREMLIN TIDBITS PART 2

  1. Gordon Craig
    December 19, 2018

    Thank you Dennis, what a fascinating series of columns, cheers, gordon

    • simanaitissays
      December 19, 2018

      Thank you, Gordon. There are times I start these things as one-day items. And then I get carried away….

  2. carmacarcounselor
    December 20, 2018

    Of course, to the nuns in The Sound of Music, Maria was a flibbertigibbet.

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