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Sunday 4 November 2012

Sunday Rest: Word Not To Use Today: ester.

This may be a perfectly harmless word: it may just be that I have, as they say, issues.

For a start, ester sounds to me much too much like Hester, and she was a particularly cruel aunt in a strip-cartoon I used to read as a child.

Yes, I know. I really should have got over that by now.

Secondly, ester sounds exactly like an angry snake just before it bites you.

Thirdly, my Chemistry teacher at school was so terrifying that the mere mention of any chemical substance is enough to make me feel as if someone has dripped liquid nitrogen down my spine.

Now, however, I've decided to make my peace with esters, and so I've been brave and had a peek at wikipedia.

The first sentence in the wiki entry is: esters are chemical compounds consisting of a carbonyl adjacent to an ether linkage.

Ah. That's good...

...I expect...

But, hang on, esters do seem to have their good side. They give us lots of lovely scents - jasmine, cherries, apples, bananas, pineapples, strawberries, butter, honey, cheese and wine.

Not only that, but they're also part of DNA - so that means that I, and you, are partly ester.

Well, fancy that. (Though I'm not sure I do.)

Of the other sorts of esters, nitroglycerin is, I must admit, seldom dull, and polyester is...well, I suppose it's useful.

We can't afford to relax altogether, though, because if you want to make an ester, you have to do it by the horrid-sounding process of esterification.


Even so, I think I may have laid an ancient horror to rest.


Sunday Rest. Word Not To Use Today: ester. The word ester was coined in 1848 by German chemist Leopold Gmelin, probably as a contraction of the German Essigäther, which means acetic ether.

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