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Jun 2, 2014
This week's theme
Words from chemistry

This week's words

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Ask anyone on the street about the term pH and chances are most of them are familiar with it, even if they are not sure what it means. Thanks to the manufacturers' addition of the term on shampoo bottles, pH has become a household term. Adding just a bit of jargon helps them to bring an aura of science to convince the consumer of the merit of the product.

If only they took that space on the shampoo bottle to tell people what pH really means, it could make for a little relaxing bathroom reading. This could also be an opportunity to learn not only chemistry (pH tells how acidic or alkaline a solution is), but also mathematics (pH is based on a logarithmic scale) and foreign languages (it's from German Potenz 'power' + H, the symbol for hydrogen).

This week we'll look at five terms from chemistry that are used in general contexts as well.

Better living through chemistry. Or, at least, better vocabulary through chemistry.

sulfurous or sulphurous

(SUHL-fuhr-uhs, suhl-FYOOR-uhs)

1. Relating to or resembling sulfur.
2. Pale yellow.
3. Fiery; hellish.
4. Hot-tempered.
5. Profane, blasphemous.

From Latin sulfur. Earliest documented use: 1530.

"And like a screeching harpy screaming up from the sulfurous depths of Hell, Kim Kardashian has sensed our happiness and seeks to destroy it, destroy it, DESTROY IT! According to the Daily Mail, Kardashian is 'cutting deals left and right' to 'minimize expenditure and maximize profits for herself and the rest of the family' when she gets married to Kanye West! By auctioning off everything from video rights to wedding photos, Kim stands to make $21 million from the wedding -- in other words, $3 million more than she made from her 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries! And that is why Kardashians get married."
Ann Romano; One Day at a Time; The Portland Mercury (Oregon); May 21, 2014.

"The author Besma Lahouri describes the operation by the Elysee in 2008 to replace Carla Bruni's sulphurous reputation with that of a demure first lady."
Charles Bremner; Carla Bruni's Not-So-Model Life; The Times (London, UK); Sep 13, 2010.

See more usage examples of sulfurous in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the inquisition might have let him alone. -Thomas Hardy, novelist and poet (1840-1928)

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