Xenomorphs—big “X” or little “x”?
Then there’s Gorman’s “xenomorph” comment. The way Gorman rattles off the term makes it sound like he knows what he’s talking about, but unfolding events make it clear he’s as clueless as the rest of them about the nature of the creatures.
Writer and director Cameron takes pains to set Gorman up as the embodiment of Vietnam-era military officer hubris and jargon-veiled incompetence, and the lieutenant holds himself above and entirely separate from the squad under his command. Dropping a fancy college word like “xenomorph” is just another way to lord rank and position over the jarheads—people whose names he hasn’t even really bothered to learn.
The word itself is a Greek construct. It combines the prefix xeno, meaning “foreign” or “strange,” with the suffix morph, which means a shape or form with the prefix’s supplied attributes. The word xenomorph in this context is a generic term for any “strange or foreign form”—any alien life form.
What Gorman is saying isn’t “There’s a specific type of creature called ‘Xenomorphs’ down there!” Instead, he’s saying “there are non-human lifeforms down there.” Any other interpretation is easily disproved in the same scene, when Ripley is prompted to describe the aliens. If the creatures have an official name that even a corporal like Hicks knows, why in the world is Ripley there as an advisor?
The use of “Xenomorphs” as a proper noun used to describe the series’ aliens is blatantly wrong. If you’re guilty of doing it, stop. “Xenomorph” is just a fancy word for “alien,” not the proper name of the creatures.