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02 September 2012


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Oh, man, this is like trying to understand chemistry in Danish. It was years before it occurred to me that brintoverilte ("hydrogen-over-oxygen") was hydrogen peroxide.



You know, it makes perfect sense that hydrogen-over-oxide is hydrogen peroxide. The prefix "per-" is kind of like "hyper" in that it means "extra." In English IUPAC naming, "per-" appears as a sort of opposite of the prefix "hypo-." here is an example:

Hypochlorite is ClO(-)
Chlorite is ClO2(-)
Chlorate is ClO3(-)
Perchlorate is ClO4(-)

The oxidation state of Chlorine rises by +2 in each step of the series. (+1, +3, +5, +7)

In oxides, the oxygen is typically in oxidation state -2. In peroxides, the oxygen has an elevated oxidation state of -1.

So it is entirely sensible that "over-oxygen" translates as "peroxide." Does the same term for "over" appear in the Danish word for the perchlorate ion?


P.S. I forgot super-. Super- is even farther along in the series than per-. In superoxides, O2(-), oxygen has an oxidation state elevated even further to -1/2.


I'm afraid it's one of those things that makes perfect sense after you've figured it out. And I'm definitely not a chemist.

These vernacular type terms are usually for the basic chemical compounds. So if you are a chemist you'll probably say hydrogenperoksid but if you're going to buy it at the store the bottle will say brintoverilte. Same for "saltsyre" which is, to borrow from the quote above, "salt sourstuff" or HCl.

I googled around and found that the concept of "overchlorat" is used to describe what "perchlorat" means. (If that makes sense.)

Laypeople usually use Danish words to describe scientific/medical terms but those in the know usually use the Latin or English terms. Like pancreas is called pancreas in English, but pancreas is doctor talk here, and for laypersons they use the term bugspytkirtel, which means abdominal spit gland. And I still run into older people who use the word "æggehvidestof" (literally egg-white-stuff) instead of "protein". The only exception I can think of is the word acid, which is syre in Danish. (Acidic = sur, which also means cranky or angry.) You'll see the Latin root in "acidose", but an acidotic patient is still described as "sur", and the acid-base balance is, even by doctors, "syre-basebalance".


You make me wish I had time to learn Danish.


Good heavens, living in Denmark is pretty much the only way to justify learning Danish.


Wow! That's really fun. I don't have time to click over and read it now but I will do so later.

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