Wednesday Word – Naphtha

January 25, 2012 in Wednesday Word

Last week I introduced the Wednesday Word feature to volcanoclast and began with perhaps the longest word in the English language.  Every week, I’ll dig through my Glossary of Geology for a good geo-word.  Welcome to week 2.

Naphtha: (naph’-tha) An archaic term for liquid petroleum.  It is now used to designate those hydrocarbons of the lowest boiling point (under 250 degrees C) that are liquid at standard conditions, but easily vaporize and become inflammable.  They are used as cleaners and solvents. (Glossary of Geology)

Can I just take a moment to quote Dr. Nick Riviera?  “Inflammable means flammable? What a country!”

This word goes back a long way and, according to our good friend Wikipedia, is “naft” in arabic and “neft” in Hebrew, both meaning petroleum (Probably no connection to NAFTA, but I’ll double-check).  The Second Book of the Macabees uses “naphtha” to refer to a miraculous flammable liquid.  Naphthalene and Napalm also derive from Naphtha.  Naphthas are middle distillates derived from oil refining and are both volatile and flammable (and inflammable!).

Tune in next week.  Got a suggestion for the Wednesday Word?  Let me know in the comments.  And don’t forget your Accretionary Wedge #42 entry and the special geologic prize pack!  Only 6 days left.

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