This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday 26 September 2011

Spot the frippet: zinc.

Vital stuff, zinc.

Yes, really vital. It's the twenty-fourth commonest element on earth, and yet a lack of zinc is linked to the deaths of about 800,000 children every year.

Good grief. Just think it. Eight hundred thousand children.

And zinc's not even expensive. You'll find it in batteries, toothpaste, paint, anti-dandruff shampoo and brass. If you see something metal that has a dusty grey look about it then it's most probably galvanised, which means covered in zinc. This stops it rusting.

Zinc was used in ancient times, but in Europe it wasn't named until the 16th century, when Paracelsus (known here as Paracelsus the Bighead) came up with zincum or zinken.

And even then no one really knew what to do with it. P the B gave it to alchemists, who burned it to produce stuff they called philosophers' wool.

You'll find zinc in mineral pills, naturally: and, good heavens, how difficult would it be to hand out those at every third-world school?

Spot the frippet: zinc. This word was made up by Paracelsus the Bighead. It might be because the German Zinke means toothlike and zinc crystals look like needles, and it might be because zinc is quite like tin, and the German for tin is Zinn.

Eight hundred thousand children...


  1. Ridiculous that so little could achieve so much and no one is doing it. How expensive can Zinc be? I am always very fond of words with Zs in them. Words with zs in them which are also good for you are extra special therefore!

  2. Very extra special, Adele!
    Friday's word will also have a zinc connection -and a health and Middle East connection, too. Do hope you can join us then.


All comments are very welcome, but please make them suitable for The Word Den's family audience.