Naming Nihonium

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The naming of the recently discovered synthetic chemical element Nihonium offers an interesting opportunity to reflect upon the policies, practices, and principles of scientific terminology.  Nihonium has the atomic number 113.  It was first reported to have been created in 2003, but it did not have a formal name until November, 2016, when "nihonium" was made official.

"Nihonium" is an internationally recognized term, but what is it called in various languages having diverse phonological and scriptal characteristics?

French — Nihonium

German — Nihonium

Italian — Nihonio

Spanish — Nihonio

Vietnamese — Nihoni

Russian — Nikhoniĭ Нихоний

Japanese — Nihoniumu ニホニウム

Korean — Nihonyum 니호늄

Chinese — Nǐ 鉨

The most difficult case is that of Chinese.  In all the other instances, the representation of "Nihonium" is basically straightforward transcription.  Although, if Hanyu Pinyin (HP) were part of an official digraphia, it (like Japanese kana or romaji) could be used to transliterate the sounds of "Nihonium", so far it is only part of an emerging digraphia.  Despite the fact that there exists an official set of orthographic rules that would enable HP to be used for writing texts, up to now the government has only authorized it for limited transcription and phonetic annotation of characters.

Faced with this completely new word, "Nihonium", the Chinese could have transcribed it syllable by syllable with characters chosen for their approximation to the sounds of the English word.  But that is not the habit of the Chinese.  They usually like to pare their transcriptions down to a couple of syllables, and for the chemical elements they have gotten in the (to me very bad) habit of representing all of the chemical elements with just a single character / syllable.  Because there are so many homophones or near-homophones among the 118 elements, this makes it very difficult to talk about them vocally.  The written form of the characters can disambiguate the sounds, but in conferences and in lectures, etc. one has to rely on the voice, not on writing.

The writing of the names of the chemical elements in Chinese itself poses problems too.  Since they are all one syllable / character in length, that means each element — even for those with homophonous names — has to be designated by a distinctive character.  This, in turn, means that the Chinese have had to invent new characters for many of the elements.  Since the invention of a character to represent the sound of part of the foreign name of an element is arbitrary, it is not rooted in the traditional development of the script, which makes it seem awkward to many who are not professional chemists, and even professional chemists have been known to complain about the artificiality of the characters used to write the names of the elements.

Let's take Nǐ 鉨 for "Nihonium" as a perfect example.  In this case, whoever dreamed it up wanted a phonetic component that everybody is familiar with, so they chose the 尔 part of 你 / 妳 ("you").  They combined that with the jīn 金 ("metal") signific to form 鉨, which they want you to pronounce as nǐ.  Unfortunately, 鉨 already had the pronunciation xǐ with the meaning "royal seal", in which sense it is considered to be an old variant of 璽 / 玺, and those are the pronunciation (xǐ) and meaning ("royal seal") that you will find for 鉨 in most dictionaries, not nǐ and Nihonium.

See:

"Names of the chemical elements in Chinese" (5/3/15)

Here's the Wikipedia account of the naming of "Nihonium", with some links added by me:

Using Mendeleev's nomenclature for unnamed and undiscovered elements, nihonium should be known as eka-thallium. In 1979 IUPAC published recommendations according to which the element was to be called ununtrium (with the corresponding symbol of Uut), a systematic element name as a placeholder, until the discovery of the element is confirmed and a name is decided on. Although widely used in the chemical community on all levels, from chemistry classrooms to advanced textbooks, the recommendations were mostly ignored among scientists in the field, who called it "element 113", with the symbol of E113, (113), or even simply 113. Before the JWP recognition of their priority, the Japanese team had unofficially suggested various names: japonium, symbol Jp, after their home country; nishinanium, symbol Nh, after Japanese physicist Yoshio Nishina, the "founding father of modern physics research in Japan"; and rikenium, symbol Rk, after the team itself. In March 2016, Morita proposed the name "nihonium" to IUPAC, after one of the two Japanese pronunciations for the name of Japan: Japan (日本 nihon). Morita also intended to reference Japanese chemist Masataka Ogawa's 1908 discovery of rhenium, which he named "nipponium" with symbol Np: the name "nipponium" could not be reused for a new element, and its symbol Np had since been used for neptunium. (Neptunium had also been first produced at RIKEN by Nishina and Kenjiro Kimura in 1940, who nevertheless did not get naming rights because they could not chemically separate and identify their discovery.)

The former president of IUPAP, Cecilia Jarlskog, complained at the Nobel Symposium on Superheavy Elements in Bäckaskog Castle, Kristianstad Municipality, Sweden in June 2016 about the lack of openness involved in the process of approving the new elements, and stated that she believed that the JWP's work was flawed and should be redone by a new JWP. However, after a survey of many physicists, it was determined that while many physicists felt that some aspects of the JWP report merited concern, including the awarding of element 113 to RIKEN and the acceptance of the discoveries of elements 115 and 117 on the grounds of cross-reactions, the consensus was that the conclusions would hold up if the work was redone, and hence the new president, Bruce McKellar, ruled that the proposed names should be released in a joint IUPAP–IUPAC press release. Thus, IUPAC and IUPAP publicised the proposal of nihonium that June, and set a five-month term to collect comments, after which the final name would be formally established at a conference. The name was officially approved in November 2016. The naming ceremony for the new element was held in Tokyo, Japan in March 2017, with Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan in attendance.

References

The Japanese Wikipedia article on Nihonium

"Basic Rules of Hanyu Pinyin Orthography (Summary)"

"The uses of Hanyu pinyin" (5/22/16)

"Character amnesia and the emergence of digraphia" (9/25/13)

"Substituting Pinyin for unknown Chinese characters" (12/3/13)

"A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters" (11/9/14), with links to other posts

"A child's substitution of Pinyin (Romanization) for characters, part 2" (10/14/16)

"The naturalness of emerging digraphia" (7/28/17)

And this classic:



50 Comments

  1. Eidolon said,

    March 22, 2018 @ 10:42 pm

    Ah, but the Japanese could have made it so much easier on the Chinese, had they simply followed their old practice of wasei-kango 和製漢語 in naming the new element. Alas, this will become yet another grudge between the two countries.

  2. Bathrobe said,

    March 22, 2018 @ 11:06 pm

    Given that all the names of elements in Chinese are single characters, it's hard to see how, short of creating a new character themselves, making up a wasei-kango would have helped the Chinese.

  3. Carl said,

    March 22, 2018 @ 11:15 pm

    "Nipponium" would be easier to say.

  4. dainichi said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 1:43 am

    > the Chinese could have transcribed it syllable by syllable with characters chosen for their approximation to the sounds of the English word. But that is not the habit of the Chinese.

    Is it the habit of anyone? The Japanese name is does not correspond to the conventional transliteration of the English pronunciation of "nihonium" (which would be something like "ニホ(ー)ニアム"), but rather a Latinate pronunciation (Or is it German?). I believe something similar can be said about the Korean name.

    Bonus question (to which I don't know the answer): How many syllables is the Spanish name?

  5. Simon Wright said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 3:38 am

    The 1965 Margery Allingham crime novel "The Mind Readers" featured a new element discovered in Japan and therefore called Nipponanium, which could enable telepathy.

    As a physicist, I found this a step too far. And I thought the name was silly – but then I was a first-year undergraduate.

  6. David Marjanović said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 5:58 am

    I had no idea a specifically feminine form had been created!

    Unfortunately, 鉨 already had the pronunciation xǐ with the meaning "royal seal", in which sense it is considered to be an old variant of 璽 / 玺, and those are the pronunciation (xǐ) and meaning ("royal seal") that you will find for 鉨 in most dictionaries, not nǐ and Nihonium.

    Oopsie.

    Would it have helped to use a more etymological approach and combine 金 with 日, or is that already occupied, too?

  7. Ursa Major said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 6:28 am

    I am an editor of chemical databases, so I'm closely interested nomenclature issues. I was surprised to learn that the official IUPAC/IUPAP recommended names are only in English and do not include names in other languages. I searched around various sources and asked a more knowledgable colleague and they do seem to be English only. So I wonder, who creates the names in non-English languages? Are they official designated by national chemical societies, are there standard conventions that are regularly followed, or do they just arise organically from working chemists?

    This contrasts with International Nonproprietary Names, i.e. official generic names for drugs, which are issued by a division of the World Health Organisation in multiple languages including Chinese. I believe these are syllable-by-syllable transcriptions, e.g. the antiretroviral ritonavir is 利托那韦.

    Naming guidelines can be found here: https://iupac.org/what-we-do/periodic-table-of-elements. The IUPAC book "Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry" (2005) (aka The Red Book) has a brief section with the following comment: "It is obviously desirable that the names used in any language resemble these names [sc. English names] as closely as possible, but it is recognised that for elements named in the past there are often well-established and very different names in other languages."

    Finally, about the potential alternative name "nipponium". As quoted from Wikipedia, this name was not available because it had previously been proposed for another element. The paper announcing the new names (https://doi.org/10.1515/pac-2016-0501) says: "Nihon is one of the two ways to say "Japan" in Japanese. … The discoverers respectfully note the 1909 claim, and never sustained proposal, by Masataka Ogawa for nipponium as element with Z = 43 [sc. technetium]. The name nihonium is also in homage to his work."

  8. Arthur Waldron said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 6:51 am

    Remember Polonium discovered by Mme Curie and named for her magnificent country for which Our Russia Friends have found such a wealth of uses. ANW

  9. B.Ma said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 6:57 am

    Here's my proposal: https://i.imgur.com/vjXnDFk.png

    This could be a multi-syllabic character.

    "Because there are so many homophones or near-homophones among the 118 elements, this makes it very difficult to talk about them vocally."

    Can anyone elaborate on how Mandarin speakers actually talk about the elements?

  10. ajay said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 7:54 am

    I foresee a sudden interest in transuranic elements at Chinese universities… well, you can't possibly have nihonium and not have chongguonium, can you?

  11. Ursa Major said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 8:45 am

    Hi B.Ma. I asked another colleague, native bilingual (Beijing Mandarin, I think) but raised and educated in the UK so not much knowledge of technical language use. He suspects that in a real working situation even minor tone differences and context should usually be enough to know which element is meant. Looking through a periodic table he thought the most potential confusion was with aluminium (铝 lǚ) and lutetium (镥 lǔ), but there are very few lab situations where one would not understand which was meant. Of course, in high school and undergraduate teaching, as well as media for the general public, you probably couldn't assume the necessary knowledge for context.

  12. Bathrobe said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 9:01 am

    There are some interesting comments about names of elements at the earlier post "Names of the chemical elements in Chinese". (5/3/15)

    There was one comment in particular that said: "The Chinese names were just there to approximate the pronunciation of the Latin names, and people seem to mostly just ignore them in research."

  13. Theophylact said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 10:12 am

    There are several national names among the elements: Francium (and Gallium as well), Americium, Germanium, Ruthenium, and Polonium come immediately to mind. There are also oodles of place names and derivatives thereof: Hafnium and Holmium (for Copenhagen and Stockholm respectively; Yttrium, Ytterbium, Terbium, and Erbium (all from Ytterby), Scandium, Lutetium (for Paris), and Rhenium (for the Rhine). Many transuranic elements are named for their place of synthesis: Berkelium, Californium, Dubnium, Darmstadtium, Moscovium, Livermorium, Tennessine, and (of course) Nihonium.

  14. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 10:23 am

    dainichi: I believe the current rule for Spanish is that words with an "h" are pronounced exactly as if the "h" weren't there. (Hence "búho", not "buho".) In that case "nihonio" has two syllables.

    I'm hoping to be corrected.

    Ursa Major: Speaking of Spain, I'll bet that in countries with national language academies, those academies are involved in the decisions on element names. I wouldn't be surprised if the academies are the bodies that officially make the decisions, after consultations with scientists or scientific academies.

  15. cameron said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 10:26 am

    Aren't these ostensibly "English" names for the trans-uranic elements really best thought of as Latin?

  16. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 10:47 am

    Theophylact and anyone else:

    Trivia quiz (if that's allowed here): Which element is possibly named by the discoverer after himself?

    cameron: I don't think those names are best thought of as Latin, since I don't think people give them classical or ecclesiastical pronunciations. In particular, though I've never heard anyone say "Tennessine", I feel sure people pronounce the "sine" like "seen", not in the various ways they pronounce it in sine die.

    Apart from that, I don't know what the criterion for thinking of them as Latin could be.

  17. mollymooly said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 10:59 am

    Does IUPAC offer recommended English pronunciations for newly approved element names? JLAB says "Nihonium is pronounced as nee-hone-ee-em"; is that descriptive or prescriptive? Tennessine ends in -ine to match other halogens, but the last vowel in "iodine" may be FLEECE /iː/ PRICE /aɪ/ or or KIT /ɪ/ , so it would be invidious to mandate FLEECE /iː/ in "tennessine".

  18. Matt Anderson said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 12:12 pm

    David Marjanović—

    I like that idea, but the graph 鈤 has already been used (with the pronunciation ) to write both germanium (now zhě 鍺) and radium (now léi鐳). Of course, both of those characters already existed, too, before being recreated (or borrowed?) to write germanium and radium—with duǒ鍺 meaning a kind of weapon used in chariot fighting, 鍺 (yet another pronunciation) meaning a unit of measure for assemblages of bells, and léi鐳 being some kind of bottle or vase. So there doesn't seem to me to be any reason that 鈤 couldn't have been reused (for a third element), with the pronunciation either or .

  19. NW said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

    Trivia quiz: Ooh, ooh, I know that one. Lecoq named gallium ostensibly for France but it could also be _gallus_ "cock".

  20. David Morris said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 4:24 pm

    (partly in response to dainichi)
    The Korean spelling suggests a pronunciation in three syllables, but for me (non-chemist), nihonium has four syllables. I found Korean Wikipedia's page for uranium (우라늄 – u-ra-nyum, not yu-ra-nyum), so the rather awkward 늄 seems to be a thing. If I (non-Korean) was transliterating into Korean I would guess 유라니엄 (which Google Translate recognises) and 니호니엄 (which it 'translates' as 'Nhonium').

    (By the way, how many languages pronounce uranium with a 'y' at the beginning and how many don't?)

  21. Bathrobe said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 5:49 pm

    (By the way, how many languages pronounce uranium with a 'y' at the beginning and how many don't?)

    Apart from English and Chinese, I don't think the pronunciation of 'uranium' with a 'y' at the beginning is found in many languages.

  22. Theophylact said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 5:51 pm

    Jerry Friedman: Gallium (discovered by Leqoc); but he denied that it was his intent.

  23. Theophylact said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 5:52 pm

    Sorry: Lecoq.

  24. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 6:29 pm

    NW and Theophylact: That's the one! I didn't know Lecoq de Boisbaudran denied it.

    mollymooly: I've never heard "fluorine", "chlorine", "bromine", or "astatine" pronounced with any vowel but FLEECE in the second syllable, so that's what I expected for "tennessine". However, according to dictionaries, there's more variation than I thought. I still don't expect to hear anything that suggests the speaker thinks of the word as Latin.

  25. David Morris said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 6:58 pm

    A similar question applies to Uranus, with the added question of where the stress falls.

  26. John Swindle said,

    March 23, 2018 @ 11:48 pm

    If it had been discovered in Ukraine they could have called it Ukranium, and if it had been discovered in Medicine Bow (pop. 284) they could have called it Medicinebovium.

  27. Thomas Rees said,

    March 24, 2018 @ 1:47 am

    dainichi, Ursa Major and Jerry Friedman: This may be of interest teneso y oganesón, mejor que tenesino y oganesson

    Los nombres recomendados de los elementos químicos con números 113, 115, 117 y 118 son nihonio, moscovio, teneso y oganesón, respectivamente.

    En las noticias que recogen la decisión de la IUPAC, el organismo internacional que regula la nomenclatura química, estas denominaciones aparecen de diversas formas, en especial las dos últimas: «La tabla periódica contará con cuatro elementos nuevos: Nihonio, Moscovio, Téneso y Oganesón», «Por razones similares nombraron el elemento con el número 117, el tenesino, inspirado en el estado de Tennessee» o «El elemento Oganesson, con el símbolo Og, fue nombrado en honor al profesor Yuri Oganessian».

    Los nombres de los elementos químicos pueden adaptarse sin problemas al español, incluso si derivan de nombres propios, como ya se ha hecho con el laurencio (de Lawrence) o el torio (de Thor), por lo que nihonio y moscovio son denominaciones adecuadas para los elementos 113 y 115, respectivamente.

    Caso especial es el 117, para el que es preferible teneso a tenesino o tenesina, pues en español los halógenos tienen la terminación –o, mientras que -ino calca la terminación inglesa –ine para los elementos de este grupo, como se puede comprobar en chlorine, astatine y iodine, que en español son cloro, astato o ástato y yodo.

    También es un caso especial oganesón, con la terminación –ón tónica, que es la adecuada en los gases nobles (neón, xenón, radón). Recibe esta denominación en honor del físico ruso cuyo nombre se transcribe Yuri Oganesián, mejor que Yuri Oganessian.

    Además, se recuerda que los nombres de los elementos químicos se escriben en minúscula: plata, sodio, carbono, oxígeno… No así los símbolos, que van siempre con su primera letra en mayúscula y el resto, si tienen más, en minúscula: Nh, Mc, Ts, Og, H, Cl, Uup.

    Por ello, en los ejemplos anteriores lo adecuado habría sido «La tabla periódica contará con cuatro elementos nuevos: nihonio, moscovio, teneso y oganesón», «Por razones similares nombraron el elemento con el número 117, el teneso, inspirado en el estado de Tennessee» y «El elemento oganesón, con el símbolo Og, fue nombrado en honor al profesor Yuri Oganessian».

    El moscovio se conocía hasta ahora como unumpentio.

    #puestaapunto. Esta recomendación sustituye a otra redactada antes de que la Real Academia Española, la Real Academia de Ciencias y la Real Sociedad Española de Química optaran por teneso, llana. Aunque la propuesta anterior de téneso, esdrújula, no es de por sí incorrecta, se desaconseja en aras de la unidad terminológica.

  28. Jerry Friedman said,

    March 24, 2018 @ 10:36 am

    Thomas Rees: Thanks. I hadn't heard of the Foundation of Emerging Spanish. (I like "Foundation of Urgent Spanish" better.) Since it's advised by the RAE, I imagine its recommendations are considered pretty official?

  29. James Wimberley said,

    March 25, 2018 @ 7:36 am

    The transuranics created with enormous difficulty in the lab are elements to atomic physicists, but they aren't what the world is made of. The half-life of the most stable isotope of nihonium is 10 seconds. It's the smile of the Cheshire cat.

  30. David Marjanović said,

    March 25, 2018 @ 4:01 pm

    Apart from English and Chinese, I don't think the pronunciation of 'uranium' with a 'y' at the beginning is found in many languages.

    Apparently, many languages in India do that – because of English of course.

    German practice is, and has long been, to send all such names "back" to Latin and then borrow them from there. Sometimes that means dropping the Latin endings: Thorium and Neptunium are kept, as is Americium, but Uran is truncated (yet retains, as usual in such cases, its now final stress). The halogens are Fluor, Chlor, Brom, Jod, Astat – I predict Tennessin, though, because it would be really awkward to cut that one.

  31. dainichi said,

    March 25, 2018 @ 6:56 pm

    In Spanish, I understand the basic rule of stressing the ult for -s and -n, and the penult otherwise. Stress in other places need an accent.

    But once diphthongs and mute h's get involved it gets a bit hairier. The fact that "búho" needs an accent to prevent it from being pronounced as [bwo], suggests to me that Nihonio should be pronounced [njonjo], which is kind of cute. But I might be missing some subtlety.

  32. Gianluca said,

    March 26, 2018 @ 7:52 am

    What a timely and interesting article!
    I have just accompanied a visiting class from China to one of our laboratories, at a technical university in Milan, Italy. A huge poster of the periodic table hang from a wall, and one of the PhD students told me, proudly, how he could remember 'all names of the elements up to number 20'. I wasn't exactly impressed, but now I can understand what he meant: if he can remember the specific characters of even the first 20 chemical elements, that's actually a major feat.

  33. John Swindle said,

    March 26, 2018 @ 8:45 am

    @ dainichi: Or, rather, for Spanish, stressing the penultimate syllable for words ending in a vowel or s or n, and the ultimate syllable for words ending in another consonant, unless an accent mark indicates otherwise. Right? I find it best, however, not to say Nihonio at all.

  34. Xin DANG said,

    March 26, 2018 @ 10:25 am

    As a Chinese who passed 4 years in high school with chemistry exercises almost every day, which BTW is still the case for today's students in China, I assure you that the one-syllable transcription of chemical elements is really convenient and efficient, especially when you have to recite a large part of the periodic table. Try to read "硼铝镓铟铊,碳硅锗锡铅" (péng lǚ jiā yīn tā ,tàn guī zhě xī qiān) and "Boron, Aluminium, Gallium, Indium, Thallium, Carbon, Silicon, Germanium, Tin, Lead". Which one will you learn by heart faster?

    If there are any homophones, element symbol and atomic number can help to remove the ambiguity.

    And another interesting advantage of this naming mechanism : some basic properties of a given element is directly shown in its Chinese name. For example, the radical 气 of 氧 (Oxygen) indicates this element is not a metal element and it's normally in gas state; 碳 (Carbon) represents a non-metal in solid state; 汞 (Mercury) is an element in liquid state; and 铜 (Copper) is a metal. If you are not a chemist, you may not know what Strontium is, but with its Chinese name 锶, at least you know that we are referring to a metal element. : )

  35. Richard W said,

    March 26, 2018 @ 10:01 pm

    "… the recently discovered synthetic chemical element Nihonium offers …"

    Did anyone mention that "nihonium" is written with a little "n"?
    https://www.britannica.com/science/element-113
    https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=nihonium

    Just as "rutherfordium" has a small "r" even though its name is derived from "Rutherford".
    https://www.britannica.com/science/rutherfordium
    https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=rutherfordium

  36. agj said,

    March 27, 2018 @ 11:49 am

    @dainichi

    The spanish 'nihonio' is most likely supposed to be ni-hó-nio, thus not pronounced /njonjo/ but /nionjo/.

    (Native Spanish speaker here.)

  37. liuyao said,

    March 27, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

    @Gianluca, I'd bet there was some sort of lost in translation going on here. I'm no PhD in chemistry and I could still memorize more than 20 elements. (About 30 horizontally, and many of the columns—not the metallic section in the middle.) The characters aren't that bad to remember (most having a phonetic component), given that they need to be able to recognize (if not write by hand) 3000+ characters to just get by with their daily life.

  38. Chas Belov said,

    March 28, 2018 @ 12:06 am

    I was surprised at ニホニウム as I would have expected 日本ニウム

  39. ajay said,

    March 28, 2018 @ 6:58 am

    I'm no PhD in chemistry and I could still memorize more than 20 elements.

    There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
    And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium,
    And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, vanadium
    And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium…

  40. Bathrobe said,

    March 28, 2018 @ 9:19 am

    On the contrary, 日本ニウム would be highly peculiar in Japanese. Writing foreign words is one of the main uses of katakana; it's not normal practice to mix in kanji. ニホニウム falls under the category of foreign word, like all of the heavier elements, and all are written purely in katakana. As a foreign word nihonium would be expected to be written in katakana only, even if it incorporated Japanese elements etymologically. (日本ニウム might conceivably be used in a spirit of playfulness, but in the sober business of naming elements it is the last rendering you would expect.)

  41. Chas Belov said,

    March 28, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

    @Victor Mair: Thank you for rescuing my comment from the spam filter.
    @Bathrobe: Are there other words you know of that make the round trip from Japanese -> other language -> Japanese that had their etymological origins so obliterated? I'm not disputing what you say – I just didn't know – but it boggles my mind that they would do this.

  42. Chas Belov said,

    March 28, 2018 @ 12:15 pm

    * make -> made

  43. Bathrobe said,

    March 29, 2018 @ 8:29 am

    For a start, try dinosaurs. This is from a list of Asian dinosaurs (Wikipedia):

    Japanese-based names:
    Fukuiraptor フクイラプトル Chinese 福井盗龙属
    Fukuisaurus フクイサウルス Chinese 福井龙属
    Fukuititan フクイティタン Chinese 福井巨龙属
    Fukuivenator フクイヴェナトル
    Futabasaurus フタバサウルス Chinese 双叶龙
    Nipponosaurus ニッポノサウルス Chinese 日本龙属
    Wakinosaurus ワキノサウルス Chinese 胁野龙属

    Chinese-based names:
    Beipiaosaurus ベイピアオサウルス Chinese 北票龍屬
    Gongxianosaurus ゴンシャノサウルス Chinese 珙县龙属
    Huayangosaurus ファヤンゴサウルス Chinese 华阳龙属
    Shantungosaurus シャントゥンゴサウルス Chinese 山东龙属
    Jeholosaurus ジェホロサウルス Chinese 热河 龙属
    Jinfengopteryx 華美金鳳鳥 (ジンフェンゴプテリクス) Chinese 金凤鸟属
    Lanzhousaurus ランジョウサウルス Chinese 兰州龙属
    Liaoningosaurus リャオニンゴサウルス Chinese 辽宁龙属

    You will notice that all Japanese names use katakana, except for Jinfengopteryx. Even for Jinfengopteryx, the Japanese name does not mix katakana and Chinese characters. The use of katakana also holds for the Nipponosaurus, discovered back in the relatively nationalistic pre-war period.

    On the other hand, all Chinese names use Chinese characters. Even for names based on Japanese, Chinese uses the correct characters as found in Japanese. For example, Wakinosaurus uses the correct characters for Wakino (胁野 Jap. 脇野), even though this is read Xiéyě in Chinese.

  44. stephen said,

    March 29, 2018 @ 1:02 pm

    This is from 2014, Poul Anderson had an essay on the elements using only Anglo-Saxon related words.

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=14074

    And in the 70s, somebody published a Star Trek Starfleet Medical reference manual, which included a 23rd century Periodic Table, with lots of future elements. Many of the element names didn't seem like good choices, such as Tritanium and Trititanium. The names are too similar. A better choice was Boridium. It would be so cool if the IUPAC would agree to that one.

    It also predicts many new elements would be discovered in India. It's plausible I suppose, but not a correct prediction so far.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2004/02/how_do_they_name_new_elements.html

    A name like Ununpentium sounds suitably exotic, to be an official name.

    Can anybody see the name Tennessine without thinking of Tennis?

    What's FLEECE? I've never seen that acronym before, and Google was no help. Allacronyms.com doesn't have it either.

    Thanks.

  45. John Swindle said,

    March 29, 2018 @ 3:12 pm

    @stephen: I think the FLEECE reference was to a vowel that sounds like the vowel in "fleece."

  46. David Marjanović said,

    March 29, 2018 @ 7:15 pm

    Many of the element names didn't seem like good choices, such as Tritanium and Trititanium. The names are too similar.

    Many, probably all of these names have actually appeared on screen. Many, likely all of them are puns, such as your two examples (titanium + "3"), duranium (uranium + "hard") and dilithium (which may be a pun not only on lithium + "2", but also on Einstein).

  47. David Marjanović said,

    March 29, 2018 @ 7:16 pm

    your two examples

    Oops, your three examples: boridium = boron + iridium of course.

  48. dainichi said,

    March 29, 2018 @ 7:56 pm

    @agj:The spanish 'nihonio' is most likely supposed to be ni-hó-nio,

    Thanks. I just looked up the relevant section in the RAE guideline:

    > se consideran siempre diptongos a efectos ortográficos las combinaciones siguientes: […] Vocal abierta […] precedida de vocal cerrada átona […]

    So it seems the orthography deliberately doesn't care about the syllabification. That explains why "guión" is now spelled "guion", although AFAIK most people pronounce it [gi.'on], not [gjon].

  49. Chas Belov said,

    March 31, 2018 @ 2:12 am

    @Bathrobe, thank you. That was enlightening.

  50. Ursa Major said,

    April 3, 2018 @ 10:25 am

    @Richard W

    I was just reading back over the later comments and saw yours about the lower case initial letter. You are correct that it should be a small n. Most scientific words derived from a proper noun are written with a lower case initial unless required otherwise by some rule either grammatical or technical (e.g. genera in taxonomy, names of astronomical bodies). The example mistake that I probably see most commonly is the names of units of measurement, however if the unit is derived from a person's name then the symbol is a capital. E.g. the unit of pressure is the pascal (symbol Pa), for frequency is hertz (Hz), etc. – compare the symbols to those for distance (metre, m) or mass (gram, g).

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