Discussions about eggcorns and related topics
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Chris -- 2011-03-08
A friend gave me a new keyboard. It has clacking, super-sensitive keys. When I was using it yesterday it caused me to mistype the name of Shakespeare’s magician, Prospero. I wrote “Prosperol.” As I was deleting the “l,” I noticed how much the altered word looked like the name of a drug.
Many drug names end in “-ol.” Among the registered “-ol” names are tylenol, detrol, levalbuterol, calcitrol, and danazol. At least one “-ol” drug yields an eggcorn. Demerol, a trade name for the opioid meperidine hydrochloride, was a legendary (and often-abused) drug when I was growing up. Dozens of web sites, we notice, spell it “dimmerol.” Makes sense – it can put your lights out in matter of minutes.
: “ Just wondering, but how is dimmerol during labour? Is it as effective as an epidural would be?”
: “ I am trying to tough it out with just 2 dimmerol per day.”
: “ just tell them to give you some Dimmerol and nitrous, u’ll be set”
How did “ol” endings come to be so popular at the pharmacy (chemist’s)? I did a bit of research and found that the “-ol” ending, even though it has been applied to a variety of unrelated drugs, actually has specific meanings in chemistry. At first the suffix designated oil compounds. Currently it signals either alcohol-like compounds (glycerol, methanol) or steroids (cortisol, stilbestrol).
When “-ol” served to flag oil compounds, it was understood to be a contraction of Latin oleum (fat). How “-ol” came to be associated with alcohol compounds is less clear. Possibly the final letters of “alcohol” were borrowed. The “-ol” in “alcohol” is not a suffix, however. “Alcohol” comes from the Arabic “al-kuhl,” which is the Arabic definite article attached to the Semitic trigraph C-H-L, the word for eyepaint, eyeshadow.
The leap from eyeshadow to an intoxicating liquid has nothing to do, by the way, with sorority parties. Two millennia ago the fine powder used as eyeshadow was obtained by sublimation, a chemical procedure that concentrates solids by turning them directly into a gas and back into a solid. The Semitic word for eyeshadow was eventually applied to the process itself. The process was then extended by analogy to liquids that could also be concentrated (i.e., distilled). The pre-eminent distillation product in chemistry was the one obtained from wine ( alcohol vini ). Ancient chemists employed distilled spirit of wine so frequently (for research, but perhaps also for recreation) that they shortened the term. The word “alcohol” by itself came to mean, by this meandering process, what we call alcohol today.
Anyway, “Prosperol” got me thinking about how many of the English words that end in “-o” could be transformed into drug names (Words ending in “o” are not common in English – they are usually loan words from other languages.) Here are some possible “-ol” drug names – pharmaceutical marketers take note.
Prosperol – often taken to calm the nerves before stock purchases and trips to Las Vegas. In high doses it gives a false perception of the expected gain.
Sombrerol – light sedative preferred for afternoon naps in hot climates.
Figarol – a slightly hallucinatory compound. The ingester often develops complex schemes that could only work in a fictional setting.
Tremolol – induces aimless movement in catatonic subjects. Side effect: tendency to hum and possible cardiac arrhythmia.
Bravadol – liquid compound that is 98% alcohol. Not to be taken with Tornadol.
Eldoradol – reported to be a euphoric. No one who has taken it has survived.
Torpedol – a potent laxative. Use only in the vicinity of reinforced steel commodes.
Last edited by kem (2012-07-03 12:55:45)
Oil of bravo. I wonder if you can push demerol further, to become completely blotto.
Last edited by David Bird (2012-07-03 12:54:09)