You say tomato…

Mar 27, 2019
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Big news, everyone! The website for our next symposium (Feb 22-23, in NYC) is now up and running, and those of you with any interest in chemical neurobiology (or chemical biology in general) should check out the program and/or register (because, while we will have more space than last year, we do anticipate that the spots will go quickly).

One thing that’s been interesting to notice in the meetings I’ve attended this year is the specific pronunciation of some scientific words. Some distinctions are more obvious than others, or can be more clearly traced to one group of people:

Ligand – pronounced ‘lih-gand’ by chemists and ‘lie-gand’ by biologists (in my experience, anyway)

Chromatography – my analytical professor in grad school took great delight in mocking the American pronunciation of ‘chroma-TAW-graphy’ as compared to his British version of ‘chro-MA-TA-graphy’

but the origin of the differences between other pronunciations seem more subtle. For example:

Artemisinin – can be pronounced ‘AR-temisinin’ or ‘arte-MIS-inin’

Sonogashira – I am more familiar with ‘so-NAH-gashira’ but recently heard ‘so-NO-gashira’

For many of the words in this second group, it seems that the pronunciations used must be closely tied with where a scientist received their training on the topic. It makes me think that an ambitious linguist would be able to determine many people’s scientific pedigree without prior knowledge of their training. Although, whether the end result would be of any interest is a separate question?? Perhaps it’s better to call the whole thing off.

Catherine (associate editor, Nature Chemical Biology)


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