Cephalogenic

or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

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Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Friday, September 15, 2006

T.G.I.F.

Friday gets its name from Frige, a.k.a. Freya, a.k.a. Mrs. Fricka Wotan (see also Wednesday). The German is, naturally, almost identical: Freitag. The French version, "vendredi", gets its name from the Latin version of Frige, Venus, the goddess of love.

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If you want to know how big a geek I am, this ought to be the defining fact: I'm having a bet with a co-worker as to who can memorize the periodic table of elements first. I can rattle off the first ten, but after that I'm lost, so it's anybody's game.

Many of the more recently discovered elements were named after people, and not always their discoverers (einsteinium, for instance), but most of the naturally occurring elements got their names from, well, all over the place. One of the elements that interested me was thallium, only because I couldn't even guess where it had come from. (It popped out at me as I was scanning the table of elements because it played a large part in the film The Young Poisoner's Handbook.)

Thallium, as it turns out, was discovered in 1861 by Sir William Crookes (he had a hand in the discovery of helium, too), and got its name from the Greek word "thallos", "green branch", because--and I love this--its line in the spectrum is a bright green. Isn't that charming? So much more interesting than "nitrogen" ("acid-forming"), "lithium" ("rock"), or "chromium" ("colourful", because it's involved in various brightly-coloured compounds).

Actually, in retrospect, those names are pretty interesting, too.

2 Comments:

Blogger Tony Pius said...

Do you have to know the elements in order? Because if not, I highly recommend the work of Mr. Thomas Lehrer.

Friday, September 15, 2006 4:08:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Oh, the elements song! Isn't it great? But yes, I have to know them in order, along with their atomic numbers and, as it turns out, their abbreviations, which I hadn't counted on, but which makes some sense. (I have to know the abbreviations because that's how she, apparently, is memorizing them. I find it easier to memorize the names--there's a sort of flow, a rhythm to it. But it's not as rhythmic as Lehrer's version.)

Saturday, September 16, 2006 12:00:00 AM  

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