Thursday, March 29, 2012

A test tube full of fun.

Chemists are a radical lot. Whatever they do causes a reaction. If they bond well, there’s equilibrium. If they develop a complex, there’s entropy all around. If they turn radio active, something explosive happens. And if they decide to stay inert, the thermodynamics of life faces a litmus test. To stereotype them as colourless white-coats is as uni-dimensional as remembering Dravid for his ‘dour defence’ or Sonia for her ‘sphinx-like silence’.

The fact is, most of us aren’t even aware of the kind of fun they have while whipping up their alcohols and aldehydes. Thankfully we have Paul W. May, the Professor of Physical Chemistry at University of Bristol. He’s been generous enough to give us an inkling of the chemist’s wit by penning ‘Molecules with silly or unusual names’.

From the book, I’ve culled out some rip-roariously amusing names that feel like they were coined in a room filled with laughing gas.

Moronic Acid is going to be my Exhibit No.1. Extracted from Mulberry trees (biologically called the Morus family), Moronic Acid is not used to dissolve the Big Mooses of the world. On the contrary, the triterpenoid organic acid is often deployed by archaeologists to wash away the dirt from ancient wooden relics.

Then there’s Arsole, the most ingeniously named compound in the chemistry of mankind. Arsole or the Arsenic equivalent of Pyrrole is predictably known to be mildly aromatic. It seems the curious tag tickled quite a few scientists into queuing up to research the aroma of the Arsole!

Another bold nomenclature is Bastardane. When confronted with a look that felt very different from the papa molecule, it seems someone with a tongue firmly in cheek took the liberty of opting for this drop of blasphemy.

‘DEAD’ (the acronym for the explosive Di-Ethyl-Azo-Dicarboxylate) is a stark example of the black humour of the lords of the lab. The hideously memorable ‘SNOT’ (Tritiated Tin Hydroxide) is an equally clever derivation, made up from the chemical formula SnOT. And if that didn’t regale you enough, consider DAMN, the acronym for the fairly toxic Di-Amino-Maleo-Nitrile. Ain’t that befittingly caustic?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Revenge of the Mummy

Let’s drop all pretence and admit it once for all that babies are rarely ever the ‘little bundles of joy’ they are made out to be. They are in fact, the fountainhead of all future troubles in store for na├»ve, unsuspecting parents.

If you put any mom through a polygraph test, the real repressed truth will tumble out. The so-called ‘cuddly angels’ are nothing but milk-guzzling, energy-draining, time-sucking ingrates who don’t give a diddly squat about you or your wasted life. All they want is: attention, attention and more attention.

To mothers and fathers who were willingly suckered into this thankless deal, I have a devious revenge plan. How about hitting the baby where it hurts by giving the child a ‘stick out like a sore thumb’ name that will cause embarrassment forever? How about giving your dolly a suitably ridiculous brand name that aptly sums up the personality of the infant?

For example, if junior is the type who wets his bed, how about calling him Harpic? That should raise a stink in the classroom when the teacher reads out his name during the roll call!

If you found that way too offensive, we could always soften things up by making it fairly cutesy. By cutesy, I mean, the baby that bawls like a rowdy for even itsy-bitsy things can be named – Yahoo! The one that cries fairly musically could be called Bose.

Hutch should be the mamma’s boy who tags along wherever she goes. Apollo (an allusion to the hospital) should be a perfect fit for the perpetually sick kid. Fevikwik could be the one who gladly chipkofyies to relatives who shower attention. And Johnnie Walker can be the restless devil who keeps on walking.

Lest you take my suggestions lightly, lemme warn you that this naming trend is already catching on in the West. Over 600 babies in Europe have been given the ‘Ikea’ moniker in the last 16 years. Just recently, a woman who loved weed and soft drinks named her girl as ‘Marijuana Pepsi Jackson’. So the revenge scenario I projected may very well happen soon. And I am not kidding.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


There’s a bunch of folks who make me go LOL every time they send me template FYI (For Your Information) mails with the same old PFA (Please Find Attached) subject line peppered with the usual SSDD (Same Shit Different Draft), culminating with an ASAP call for action and ending with a cunningly planted PS thrown in to couch their real intentions in a sly BTW manner. I feel like giving them a KITA (Kick In The Anterior) for forgetting the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle that they so diligently learnt in their MBA (Mentally Below Average) school.

If you’re wondering why I am going on and on with initialisms, you must have figured that I am no fan of ABCs (Abbreviation Belching Cretins). The mindless minimalism of the ABCs is the reason why we see alphabet soups floating all around us. Tamil Nadu is full of these monogrammatic monstrosities.

Lording over us is ADMK (Amma Devotees Munnetra Kazhagam). Berating every move of the ruling party is DMK (Dynastic Munnetra Kazhagam). Watching from the sidelines is the DMDK (Definitely Muddled Depleted Kazhagam) and desperately seeking some attention is the PMK (Perpetually Mercenary Kazhagam).

Egging them on in the darkness fuelled by TNEB (Think Never Ending Blackouts) is the abbreviation-loving Tamilian who listens to ARR, cheers for CSK, bats for MSD, claps for MGR, banks with IOB, studies in MCC, works for TCS or IBM and wishes he were an NRI.

Seeing our fascination for incongruous letter clusters, even movie makers have started peddling their films with ungainly acronyms. You had SMS (Siva Manasula Sakti), VTV (Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya) and ATM (Azhagiya Tamizh Magan).

Actually our North Indian brethren share the same weakness at least when it comes to films. First there was DDLJ, then HAHK, followed by KKHH and finally K3G. Now things have reached vulgar proportions. A new Vivek Oberoi flick is all set to be launched as KLPD (Kismat Love Paisa Dilli). Ostensibly targeted at the ‘Bhaag DK Bose’ generation, KLPD is a campus expression that is not exactly worth discussing over family dinner. I think it’s an utterly tasteless title that deserves nothing less than a WTF from the censor board.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Whiff of Exotica

An average woman can identify 10,000 distinct odours. While an average man can just about manage 5000 aromas. That explains why the female species can sniff out your stinky socks from a mile. That also sheds new light on why ‘guys like us’ can’t even tell the difference between perfumes, colognes and deodorants.

For the olfactorily-challenged: Cologne has just 3 to 6% solution of fragrance oil in 70% grade alcohol; Deodorant has 6 to 15% fragrance in 80% grade alcohol; and Perfume has 15 to 25% in 100% ethyl alcohol. In pure aura terms, the difference is the same as the one between Any Aishwarya, Aishwarya Rajnikant and Aishwarya Rai.

Now that we’ve got that monkey off our back, let’s understand why women fall hook, line and sinker for parfums (that’s how the French spell it).

Perfumistas opine that the prime motive could be to ensnare a man by triggering pheromones that stimulate a sensual feeling inside her mate. I’d like to think that’s utter poppycock. The driving force at work here is the masochistic urge of the woman to make the man pay the price for putting up with his insufferable company.

Yes sir, the perfume is her payback for overcoming the stench of your presence. You better wake up to this unsavoury reality the next time you gift her that unpronounceable scented oil in that obscenely expensive bottle.

To help you cut your losses, I am gonna give you a little tip. The more grandiosely exotic the name of the parfum, the more it’s gonna hurt your wallet. As in, if it’s Zeste Mandarine Pampelmousse (French for ‘Spirit of Orange & Graperfruit’), Drakkar Noir (Black Dragonship) or Kokorico (Cock-a-doodle-do), it’s always going to cost you more than our humble Spinz.

Another trick is to request the pretty salesgirl for a demystification of the perfume name. If she says ‘Un Jardin Sur Le Nil’ translates to ’A garden on the Nile’ it just means that your chick will end up smelling like an Egyptian mango. Shelling out a ransom for an aam flavour? Now if that’s not paying through your nose, I don’t what else is!