• stannous •
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Made of, containing, or otherwise pertaining to tin.
Notes: The active ingredient in fluoride toothpaste is stannous fluoride (SnF2), an antimicrobial chemical that bonds with the enamel to deter the effects of the acid and plaque buildup that eat away at the enamel. The acids and plaque are produced by microorganisms enjoying the carbohydrates and sugars in our mouths (another reason for reducing sugar and carbs). Of course, don't overdo it: you don't want stannous teeth like those of Jaws in the James Bond movies Moonraker and The Spy who Loved me.
In Play: The term stannous fluoride sounds so scientific that it is easy to overlook the fact that it refers to a common household metal. This word would have come in handy earlier in the century when wags called Henry Ford's Model T a Tin Lizzy. Owners could have retorted, "'Tis a Stannous Elizabeth that I own." It says the same thing but in classier terms. Wouldn't you rather eat food from a stannous container than a tin can? Are you musical or do you have a stannous ear. OK, OK, I'll stop.
Word History: Today's Good Word comes to us from Late Latin stannum "tin," originally an alloy of silver and lead. This word came from an earlier form, stagnum, whence Italian stagno, Spanish estaño, Portuguese estanho, Old French estain and Modern French étain. The Romance languages do not like words beginning with [s] + a consonant and resolve the problem by adding an initial [e]. Attaching the [e] still didn't satisfy the French, so they eliminated the [s] after appending the [e], hence étain. They do it all the time: état "state" and école "school". Stagnum may be of Celtic origin but that remains unclear.
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