I’ve been a science guy for most of my life, so I periodically refer to the table of elements. Because I love word play and bad puns, I look at the names of elements and ask things like, why is there helium, but not shelium? Why is it erbium instead of herbium? Isn’t the pronunciation the same? And I can’t find unobtainium on any list of elements, but then I’m certainly no avatar.
The names of elements are found throughout common usage. We go for the gold, someone has a tin ear, someone else hasn’t got a nickel to their name, people iron out difficulties, there are silver-tongued orators, we’re told to get the lead out. Heck, there’s even a TV network called Oxygen. And the floor in your bathroom or kitchen is probably made of linoleum.
Why not take things a little further, here on terra fermium? You could throw in everything but the kitchen zinc. What’s the matter, cat got your tungsten? There is no curium for radium poisoning. A spoiled child might throw a tantalum. A criminal might copper pleas for a lesser sentence. Xenon evil, hear non evil. There was the Clinton scandium; he was getting a little astatine. Do rich people play polonium? You don’t know the hafnium of it. Of all the gallium! I sometimes have breakfast cerium in the morning. Remember the old Arsenic Hall show? Oh, and don’t forget the parable of the good samarium. I should water those germaniums in the window.
There are famous people, too, like President Rutherfordium B. Hayes. You have scientists like Copernicium, Bohrium, and Einsteinium. Incidentally, they were all from Europium. I wonder if dubnium was named for George Dubya Bush. Columbium discovered the New World while looking for a shortcut to Indium. I’m not boron you, am I? Sorry — I’m afraid it only gets worse.
Geographically speaking, Paris is in Francium, and we have city names like Portland, Argon, and Bismuth, North Dakota. Berkelium is in Californium. In astronomy, there are black holmiums. Planets besides Mercury are Uranium, Neptunium, Plutonium, and of course Superman’s home planet, Krypton. Who won this year’s Nobelium Prize? In Norse mythology, there is the god Thorium.
Literature and the arts presents a cornucopium (okay, I made that one up). You’d have books like The Boy Who Cried Wolfram and the horror classic Frankenstein, Or the Modern Promethium. Movies offer the richest ore: “Americium Graffiti,” “The Wizard of Osmium,” “Clash of the Titanium,” “Magnesium Force,” “Radon Rommel,” and of course my all-time favorite, “Lawrencium of Arabia.”
There could be zany definitions, too. Keanu Reeves starred in “The Matrix,” but it’s been said he’s not all that bright. Would neodymium describe him? A mechanistic race on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” that has adapted to life underwater would be seaborgium. People who can’t get enough of organic meats? That’s easy — livermorium. The element for cheap computer users is ununpentium. Bad writing (like what you’re reading now) is dysprosium. Medicine for a male sibling would be bromine. And silicon? A funny felon. Technetium sounds like something for a computer nerd. Dinner on a certain satellite of Jupiter is iodine. If you’re in favor of diplomacy, protactinium is the one for you. If you’re at my advanced age and you’re seeing someone, then you’re carbon dating. Okay, this one might hurt a bit. A language peculiarity used by an ignorant townie at the carnival — rubidium.
I got divorced, but didn’t have to pay antimony. Wait — I can use that one again. From the world of actinium, Marc Antimony said, “I come to barium Caesar, not to praseodymium. Alright, I won’t subject you to any more of this, but I’ll leave you with a word of advice. These days, we have to find as many ways as possible to laugh. Otherwise, we could, well, sulfur the consequences.