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The soldiers are always going on about x-rays, but I have no idea what they're talking about. What is an x-ray?

A lot of times, they'll mention x-rays when I kill an alien, but I think I've heard them say it otherwise. I get the feeling that it might just mean "alien". Why would they call it that?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 37 down vote accepted

It's common in military parlance to give a short, unambiguous designation to your enemies. Typically the NATO Phonetic Alphabet is used for this type of designation. In situations where your squad may draw from many nationalities, dialects, or ethnicities with different pronunciations of common words, this reduces the chances that a message will be misinterpreted.

For instance, "tango" is used by the military in many situations in place of "enemy target." Likewise, squads may be given names based on the first letters of the alphabet, such as Alpha/Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, and Foxtrot.

The "X" in X-COM stands for "Extraterrestrial" so it follows that when you're engaging the enemy, you're fighting "X"es, or "X-Ray" in the phonetic alphabet.

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This is actually why American soldiers used "Charlie" to refer to Viet Cong and other enemy troops in the Vietnam War (VC -> Victor Charlie -> Charlie). –  Tacroy Oct 12 '12 at 15:43
left 4 dead2 likewise has soldiers referring to whiskey deltas for walking dead –  Raven Dreamer Oct 12 '12 at 16:14
Halo, similarly, has dialogue use "Echo-Tangos" a lot when talking about ExtraTerrestrials. –  murgatroid99 Oct 12 '12 at 17:39
Yep, we could do this for days. Haven't even scratched the surface of military shooters (BF3/MW3), which are rife with it. There's a whole TVTropes article even. –  agent86 Oct 12 '12 at 18:09
Oscar Mike Golf Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Bravo Bravo Quebec –  Alex Apr 18 '13 at 16:40

X does not really stand for extraterrestrial, but merely x for unknown. Terrestrial terrorists/targets who are unknown are referred to as "X-rays", but the info is basically sound.

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This is more of a comment on a previous post, and a subjective one. Please make sure your answers have not already been stated, and that they answer the question –  ChargingPun Nov 29 '12 at 18:05
Low rep, He can't post it as a comment. –  Michel Nov 29 '12 at 18:14

x-ray represents the letter "x" in the phonetic alphabet. x stands for xenomorph. xenomorph= alien

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Do you have a source for this? "Xenomorph" is a made-up term from an entirely different franchise –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft May 13 '13 at 18:14

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