Monday, February 02, 2015



Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010; paperback edition 2011), pp. 5-6:
But the symbol for mercury, Hg, consists of two letters that don't even appear in its name. Unraveling that mystery—it's from hydragyrum, Latin for "water silver"—helped me understand how heavily ancient languages and mythology influenced the periodic table, something you can still see in the Latin names for the newer, superheavy elements along the bottom row.
For hydragyrum read hydrargyrum. Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. hydrargyrum:
< modern Latin hydrargyrum, altered (on the analogy of other names of metals, as aurum, argentum) from Latin hydrargyrus, < Greek ὑδράργυρος artificial quicksilver, < ὑδρ- (HYDRO- comb. form) + ἄργυρος silver.


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