This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 11 February 2019

Spot the Frippet: chicle.

No, really, this is easy.

I just wish there wasn't no much of it stuck over the pavement.

Yes, chicle is the substance of which chewing gum is made (or one of the substances: there have been many, and the chewing gum companies keep the ingredients for their own gum secret. The oldest known chewing gum is 6,000 years old and was made of birch gum, but chewing gums have been invented in many civilisations using ingredients from chocolate to rubber).

bleeding a chicle tree, 1917, Belize.

In modern times, chewing gum might be made of butadiene-styrene rubber, paraffin, petroleum wax, polyethylene, or polyvinyl acetate, as well as chicle or some other more natural product; but as no one in their right mind would put any of those chemicals in their mouth, it might be best to tell ourselves it's all made of chicle.

(The coating of a modern piece of chewing gum is probably polyol (no, luckily that's not any sort of a tadpole, but a chemical sweetener)).

Is there anything even slightly charming about chewing gum, even when it's made of chicle? Well, the cooling feeling you get while masticating chewing gum is down to the negative enthalpy of dissolution, which sounds like something Diana Wynne Jones might have dreamed up, but is actually what happens when sweeteners dissolve and take energy from their surroundings to do it.

Anyway, chewing gum isn't all bad. Not quite. It can help people who have just had stomach surgery, it can reduce the incidence of tooth decay, and it can boost brain power for a short time. 

But once it's been spat over the pavement, of course, it's of absolutely no use at all.

Spot the Frippet: chicle. The Nahuatl word tziktli means sticky stuff. 

Which is curiously close to the English.

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