User talk:Nbarth

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Etymology of lyophilize[edit]

Back in 2014 you created the etymology section of lyophilize, tracing the term to "Ancient Greek λύω (lúō, to loosen, to dissolve) + φίλος (phílos, beloved) + -ίζειν (-ízein)."

I'm just having the devil of a time figuring out why someone who was looking for a term to label the act of freeze-drying would choose to capture that notion in terms of loosening, dissolving, and the beloved. Can you shed any light?

Thanks.—PaulTanenbaum (talk) 12:58, 6 June 2018 (UTC)

I've elaborated and linked to related terms.
The Ancient Greek terms are used in technical senses in chemistry, e.g., hydrophilic (“water-loving” for “water-absorbing, affinity for water”), and similarly lyo- in the same way as -lysis, like catalysis, dialysis.
Does this help?
—Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 20:24, 17 June 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for your response. To be sure, contemporary technical lexicons are awash in constructions from Ancient Greek, and also from New Latin, and from hybrids of the two such as diffeomorphism. And we've even hybridized Ancient Greek with English. Thus the noun isospin is constructed from Ancient Greek ἴσος (ísos, equal) and English spin, which ultimately derives from Proto-Germanic *spinnaną.
But none of that is the point of my question, so allow me to come at it again. Suppose that Smith and Jones independently encounter the word lyophilize. Smith, being innocent of any classical languages, is utterly at sea. He may indeed simply gloss right over the word as no more than the latest piece of the gibberish he's accustomed to paying no heed. Happily for our story though, Jones is more experienced in language and may also be more curious than Smith. So he ponders his discovery a bit and recognizes it as a composition of two components, both Greek. And not only that, but each of these components is already known to him. All is well, no? No. And here's where things go south: even though he is equipped with the components' individual meanings, the best stabs Jones can make at the meaning of their composition are "to love to loosen or dissolve things" and "to loosen or dissolve things one loves." Imagine then his bewilderment when, upon seeking definitive clarity from the dictionary, he learns that lyophilize is but a fancy term for "freeze dry." Is he not likely to think, "What? Why not—oh I don't know—cryoxeronize or something?"
Jones's state is exactly where I find myself.
PaulTanenbaum (talk)
Thanks for explaining!
Dunno; some 19th century American agronomist with more confidence than ability in Classics, most like.
—Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 03:54, 29 June 2018 (UTC)
I've added more details; it has been popularized since 1960 with the explanation that the dried product is able to rapidly reabsorb the solvent and restore the original substance, hence “lyophil” (solvent-loving).
—Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 04:09, 29 June 2018 (UTC)
Yo, your citation of Rey is about the best I could ever hope for to scratch my itch. ¡Muchas gracias!—PaulTanenbaum (talk)
Though—oops!—when I tried the link to Rey's article, Nature belched. Turns out the URL was missing a terminal a. I've set that aright.—PaulTanenbaum (talk)
And it turns out that my etymological intuition had led me astray. The coiner had not been focused on the process of freeze-drying, but on its result: stuff that loves to end up end up dissolved.—PaulTanenbaum (talk)
Thanks for the fix, and glad we finally have a clear answer!
—Nils von Barth (nbarth) (talk) 14:36, 29 June 2018 (UTC)