Technical Translation
Website Translation Clip Art


Use this forum to discuss past Good Words.


Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Oct 12, 2013 10:42 pm

• gas •

Pronunciation: gæs • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A state of matter lighter than solid or liquid that expands and diffuses infinitely and uniformly. 2. A clipping of gasoline, a liquid fuel refined from crude oil. 3. Flatulence or the discomfort it causes, as to have gas on the stomach. 4. The pedal or other device that controls the amount of gasoline fed to an engine, as to step on the gas in a car. 5. Hot air; pompous, empty talk.

Notes: Although dictionaries allow two plurals for this word, gases and gasses, the former is currently preferred on the Web by a margin of 58 million to 3 million. The spread is even wider for the analogical example, buses. This noun may also be used as a verb meaning "to put gas in". You may either gas up your car with gasoline or let your food gas you up with flatulence.

In Play: Let us start out with two of the most common meanings of today's curt word: "Bertie, step on the gas! I have to get an antacid before the gas on my stomach kills me." This particular word probably has already been ridden as far as it will go metaphorically: "Her speech was so bombastic, we could have flown to Europe and back on the gas!"

Word History: Today's word is an invention of the Dutch chemist, Jan Baptista Van Helmont (1577-1644), who adopted it from Greek chaos. The 1652 edition of his book, Ortus Medicinæ, contains this line: halitum illum Gas vocavi, non longe a Chao veterum secretum (this vapor I have called 'Gas', not far removed from ancient 'Chaos'). The Dutch pronunciation of [g] as a spirant [kh] (like Scottish or German [ch]) accounts for its being employed to represent Greek ch (= kh). Gouda is pronounced [khowdah] in Dutch. The connection may have been suggested by Paracelsus's use of chaos for the element of such spirits as underground gnomes. (It might seem appropriate that a word originally referring to underground gnomes comes to us today from Michael McWilliams of Raytheon, Australia, himself living 'down under' in another sense.)
• The Good Dr. Goodword
User avatar
Dr. Goodword
Site Admin
Posts: 3854
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2005 9:28 am
Location: Lewisburg, PA

Re: Gas

Postby MTC » Sun Oct 13, 2013 4:33 am

Van Helmont's statement, "(this vapor I have called 'Gas', not far removed from ancient 'Chaos')" makes sense when we remember he was probably referring to the original Greek word "khaos," which meant "the primeval emptiness of the Universe," not to "disorder."
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 1073
Joined: Mon Apr 05, 2010 11:40 am
Location: Pasadena

Re: Gas

Postby David Myer » Sun Oct 13, 2013 7:27 am

Fascinating word on several counts. I do like the origin and the web count of spellings of the plural. Also interesting was that the contributor comes from Raytheon in Australia. Umm..., where's Raytheon? I can find an office of the American company Raytheon, but a town, somewhere?

David in Melbourne, which really does exist.
David Myer
Junior Lexiterian
Posts: 97
Joined: Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:21 am
Location: Melbourne

Re: Gas

Postby Perry Lassiter » Sun Oct 13, 2013 2:36 pm

About the plurals: I was told in school by phonics. According to my teachers a vowel followed by a consonant was usually pronounced long, not short. A vowel followed by a double consonant was pronounced short. Thus, gases would rhyme with vases, buses with fuses.

I would guess the preponderance of those single S might come from being taught by the "see-say" method. A club secretary often puts broad in the minutes where board should appear. Not teaching phonics is the root of all evils.
Last edited by Perry Lassiter on Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Perry Lassiter
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 2774
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:41 pm
Location: RUSTON, LA

Re: Gas

Postby bamaboy56 » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:45 pm

One of the miriad reasons that English is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. I gave a written assessment to a person who kept spelling the word "tube" as "toob", among several other things he spelled phonetically. Interesting.
Be who you are and say what you feel in your heart. Because those that matter, don't mind. And those that mind, don't matter.
User avatar
Posts: 351
Joined: Thu Feb 24, 2011 8:20 pm
Location: The Deep South

Re: Gas

Postby Perry Lassiter » Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:41 pm

My first reaction is tube does not sound like toob. Then I thought lube does sound exactly like loob!
Perry Lassiter
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 2774
Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:41 pm
Location: RUSTON, LA

Re: Gas

Postby Slava » Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:13 pm

If the British were to spell phonetically, wouldn't we expect to see "tyube"?

If we spelled everything phonetically, how would we tell words apart? It would make reading that much more difficult as you'd have to keep reminding yourself of the context.

We sure are having a gas with this word, eh?
Life is like playing chess with chessmen who each have thoughts and feelings and motives of their own.
User avatar
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 5037
Joined: Thu Sep 28, 2006 9:31 am
Location: Finger Lakes, NY

Re: Gas

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon Oct 14, 2013 10:55 pm

Perry: Which teachers told you that about vowels before one or two consonant? They never made it to my school, for which I am glad. The only long/short vowel rule I know is that one can make a vowel short or long by omitting or putting an e at the end of the word as in hat/hate, met/mete. Even that is not foolproof and doesn't work on multi-syllable words. For my students of ESL, I simply tell them they have to learn how to say each word. We could make English a perfect phonetic language by spelling reform, but which version of English should we choose for that?

Did the Good Doctor omit the slang use of gas as being something fun or funny?
It is dark at night, but the Sun will come up and then we can see.
Philip Hudson
Grand Panjandrum
Posts: 1904
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:41 am
Location: Texas

Return to Good Word Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests