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Every unexplained mechanical error, every mysteriously malfunctioning engine, defective wheel, gas leak, fuselage weakness, cockpit damage, and avionics glitch can be blamed on gremlins. These little machine fairies are the modern equivalent of the ancient dwarfs, but they destroy instead of build.
Etymologies for “gremlin” disagree, and are probably all apocryphal. One suggestion holds that it originates from the antiquated Old English gremian, “to vex”. This is related to the Irish Gaelic gruaimin, “grumpy little fellow”, which comes from gruaim, “gloom” or “ill-humor”. Another suggestion is a shortening of grinning goblin. The French grelon or “hailstone” indicates some meteorological confusion. Edwards adds the German gram or “worry” to the mix, from which the diminutive gramlein can be derived. Finally, Fremlins beer may have had a hand in inspiring gremlins.
Similarly there is no consensus on gremlin appearance, but it is generally assumed that they are small, six inches to a foot in height, and humanoid in appearance. They are skinny and nimble enough to move about through complex machinery. Known colors include green and blue-grey. Some have horns, others have pointed ears; webbed feet and suction cups have been suggested for yet others. Clothing is optional, including nudity, pilot gear, breeches and jackets, and even spats and top-hats. They eat treacle and honey, and drink fuel, sucking tanks dry.
Gremlins were first identified by R.A.F. pilots, especially on Maltese airfields in World War I, although there is evidence to suggest that they have been around longer than that. From there tales of the gremlins and their deeds spread throughout the piloting world, until they became a byword for any unexplained mechanical issues.
Gremlin activities range from juvenile pranks to outright destructive cruelty. They view all airplanes as an affront, and do whatever they can to ground them. Some gremlin subspecies specialized in specific forms of mischief. Mole-like Cavity gremlins dug holes in runways, Incisors teethed on wires, Jockeys guided birds into airplane windscreens, and Optics glowed over bomb sights.
While gremlins have faded from the aerial popularity they enjoyed during the war, the preponderance of technology in our modern world has only given them further targets to mess wgsgnslfgnsogdkfjgluiw4v8r93428RQVNWAELIVJWBKkjdhzseuwy5ycjdft3534bsrg5566fgdfgcbvgbc
Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.
Edwards, G. (1974) Hobgoblin and Sweet Puck. John Sherratt and Son, Altrincham.