In chemistry we are blessed with a rich text with words influenced by languages from across the world. Our words are interesting and rhythmic and this can be great fun in teaching. What are your favourite words and phrases in chemistry?
The holidays are looming and we all have a case of end of term-itis. So to my mind it’s time for a light hearted blog about some of the fantastic words we use in chemistry when we’re teaching.
English teachers and linguists will claim that they have the best words. I remember interminable lessons in English Literature, examining tests for alliteration and onomatopoeia. There are words in foreign languages that I particularly like “plonger” in French (to dive) and “schwarzwälder kirschtorte” in German (black forest gateau).
In chemistry we are also blessed with a rich text with words influenced by languages from across the world. Our words are interesting and rhythmic and this can be great fun in teaching. The products of neutralisation are permanently etched on my brain because my Year 9 chemistry teacher Mrs Brenchley, made us recite “acid + alkali give salt + water” in a pleasing rhythm. Introducing the Periodic Table and element symbols leads to the inevitable question of why sodium has the symbol Na and not S, why some elements have names that seem familiar (places and people) and others seem to your average teenager to be completely random. Then there is the inevitable debate about why they sometimes see a particular element as spelt with a ph and sometimes with an f. Using the indicator phenolphthalein produces some interesting pronunciation attempts from the students and the effect of their accents on many chemical terms can also raise a smile.
Our chemical words can give us clues about substances, endings such as -ide and -ate as well as systematic nomenclature mono-, di-, tri-, meth-, eth-, prop-. We can also use plays on words to help students remember things “cations are pussitive”, “Z isomers are on ze zame zide…” and inevitably there are few teenage boys who forget which way up molten iron and a particular waste product go in the blast furnace!
Without a doubt my favourite chemistry word that I use in teaching every year is “zwitterion”, of course said in a comedy German accent! So over to you blog community, what are your favourite chemistry words and phrases?