You Consume These Horrible Sounding Chemicals Every Day

It’s time to block off a lot of time from work and call all your chemistry teacher friends, cause you’re about to do a lot of drugs. In fact, you are gonna have to do every substance on this list today or you will die.

retinoic acid
retinyl palmitate
pantothenic acid
folate / folic acid
folinic acid
ascorbic acid (yes, [ə.skɔ˞.bɪk])
dl-tocopheryl acetate
phylloquinone / phytomenadione / phytonadione
menaquinone-4 / menatetrenone
alpha-linolenic acid
linoleic acid
docosahexaenoic acid
gamma-linolenic acid

OK, if that’s not enough for you and you still wanna ride the A-train, B-train, or whatever train that took you on, then here are some substances that will make things interesting. Some of them are in fact life-or-death essential, while some of may perhaps be harmful. You’ll have to do more than see long scary chemistry words to find out.

hydrogen dioxide
sodium chloride
dicalcium phosphate
magnesium citrate
silicon dioxide
sodium hydroxide
hydrogen peroxide
sodium bicarbonate
potassium sodium tratrate

The substance on the first list are not actually drugs, but scary sounding chemical names for vitamins. The second list is things like water, salt, sand, alcohol, and caffeine. When you write out the chemical formulas for even the most common and essential compounds, the pile of Neo-Grecolatin rises and felicity flies out the door, leading to ocular dilation, heart palpitations, anxiety, racing thoughts—and delusions of chemical grandeur.

Common names for everything helps, as in the case with caffeine (the only chemical name for it is hugely inaccessible and grossly obtuse), but our relationship with chemistry terms—and jargon in general—needs to change: more education and less usage except in a learning or otherwise clarified environment.

The Etymology of the Word Alfalfa Will Surprise You

Take a look at the etymology for alfalfa. (This page has some extra info too.)

It actually has the same root as the Latin term equus, both coming from the PIE *ʔékʲwos. For alfalfa, it went by way of Persian aspast, apparently the palatovelar [kʲ] becoming [s] and the labiovelar [w] in that environment interestingly becoming [p]. (I’m assuming the -[t] is a grammatical thing from Persian.) Remember that an approximant sound can potentially become a fricative or a stop. It’s important to point out that in this PIE root this is not a labiovelar [kw], but the sequence of a palatalized (or possibly plain velar) followed by a [w]. In all of the reflexes for *ʔékʲwos then, if [w] changed, it either became a [v] or [p] or it went away, so we don’t see [w] becoming a velar.

The later Persian form aspest was borrowed into Arabic where it picked up the definite article prefix al– and underwent a transformation that looks like some reduplication was involved: al-fisˤfisˤ The first syllable as– may have been discarded (subconsciously) as sounding too much like the article. That would give us *past and since there’s no [p] in Arabic that falls to the next voiceless labialoid sound [f] and something about Arabic at this time or the sound of the secondary, tertiary articulation / phonetic minutiae of the Persian –st# to the Arabic ear led [st] to become a pharyngealized s. So it was

(our article)(unnecessary repetition of article)(labialoid)(vowel)(s)(something else we’ll call it emphatic)

yielding *al-asfisˤ which then was reduplicated to *al-fisˤfisˤ, possibly to fill in the timing of the word and/or to feasibly mimic the lost [as] by means of differentiation. There also could have been an intermediate form *al-isfisˤ and the similarity of the final syllable to the previous one led them to assimilate. (And reduplication seems fitting for casually or even dismissively waving at that horse food stuff. Horses were heavily used in Arabic-speaking regions so they would have been commonplace and familiarity tends to breed a sort of phonological contempt/ennui and understatedly endearing creativity, i.e. you get bored saying the same thing over and over again, so you change it by processes it beyond systematic, regular sound change.)

Then Spanish, the great vehicle of Arabic for Europe, further changed our now recognizable form to [alfalfes]. Again we see some assimilation with the -[al] sequence being repeated in the second syllable. This suggests there may have been an intermediate form more like the Arabic of [alfesfes] and the -[sf]- sequence was too much for the Spanish tongue. Later the final [s] was lost and we have the form that looks familiar to us today.

So, again, this stuff:
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) : sprouts

and horse ultimately came from the same word.

That’s quite a statement for word relationships and the process of neologism (or neology, as the practice of using a neologism).

But now that we’ve seen the phonological pathway for that, ‘horse’ and ‘horse food’ having the same root doesn’t sound so crazy.