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America renames Chemistry
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Edited Jun 04, 2017, 12:15
Re: America renames Chemistry
Jun 04, 2017, 11:35
Howburn Digger wrote:
is everyone aware that the chemical element Sulphur has been officially renamed Sulfur? Apparently American "lazy" spelling has been adopted by the UK and international chemists. Not all are happy about this.

But what can you do?

Actually, the word sulfur is derived from the Latin word sulpur (later Hellenized to sulphur). The spelling sulfur appears towards the end of the Classical period.

“In 12th-century Anglo-French, it was sulfre; in the 14th century the Latin ph was restored, for sulphre; and by the 15th century the full Latin spelling was restored, for sulfur, sulphur. The parallel f~ph spellings continued in Britain until the 19th century, when the word was standardized as sulphur. Sulfur was the form chosen in the United States, whereas Canada uses both. The IUPAC adopted the spelling sulfur in 1990, as did the Nomenclature Committee of the Royal Society of Chemistry in 1992, restoring the spelling sulfur to Britain. Oxford Dictionaries note that "in chemistry and other technical uses … the -f- spelling is now the standard form for this and related words in British as well as US contexts, and is increasingly used in general contexts as well.” (Source Wikipedia).

So, the spelling and etymology of the word has an interesting and chequered history, with the ‘f’ spelling of the word (as in sufre) being in use for several hundred years. Hardly a new or ‘lazy’ adoption, especially as the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry and the Nomenclature Committee of the Royal Society of Chemistry adopted the sulfur spelling in 1990 and 1992 respectfully.

The spellings for aluminium and aluminum also have an interesting history (and the latter is neither a new nor a lazy option either). It might also be worth noting that American English has preserved many old English words and phrases which have disappeared from 'British' English. Google ‘Appalachian English’ if you're interested.

Trivia alert: The 1893 statue of Eros (actually it’s a statue of Anteros) in Piccadilly Circus, London was the first statue in the world to be cast in aluminium/aluminum.

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