Word Associations

I am just crazy enough to think that I can make just about anything sound interesting. That’s a hypothesis. The Scientific Method demands my hypothesis be tested. To best prove my hypothesis… the strongest way… is to disprove the alternative hypothesis.

So I will state that it must be utterly impossible to take something mundane… such as a list of words… and make them into an interesting narrative….

Let’s get this party started!

First a few vocab words:
Venetian Ceruse
Teredo navalis
Berlin green
Paris green/Emerald green

Now… here we go….

In “classical” painting, flake-white is the color of choice for oil paint. The paint was prepared by exposing crushed Cerussite crystals over boiling vinegar (dilute acetic acid). Cerussite is lead carbonate. The carbonate would boil off as carbon dioxide. Flake-white is also called Berlin white or Kremnitz white. The material was also used as a lubricant for heavy machinery such as the capstan on a ship. And to paint the underside of the ship below the waterline… to prevent Teredo navalis… or shipworms… from eating your hull out from under you.

Another name for flake-white was Venetian Ceruse… which was the make-up women used to paint their faces white. One side-effect was anemia. Another was neuropathy. That’s why we no longer allow lead paint in houses, even though they cut down on mold significantly.

Over time, flake-white would absorb trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide from the air and convert into lead sulfide… which turned the paint black. Most lead was mined as Gelena instead of Cerussite. Gelena also contains a fair amount of Silver sulfide, making the ore even more valuable.

The Egyptians used Gelena to make kohl… which was the black eyeliner so famously depicted in Ancient Egyptian artwork. Kohl had an additional advantage of keeping flies away from the face and eyes, apparently.

Most of the rest of the words deal with other pigment colors. Prussian blue and Berlin green both derive their color from Ferric ferricyanide. Ferric ferricyanide as in… cyanide….

Painting… or limning as sign painting was called… and producing paint and other chemical product… or Alchemy as that occupation was called… could be a dangerous occupation, as could be making hats or blacksmithing. Making hats involved using Mercury to make the beaver fur felt more manageable. Hence the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Mercury was also used for barking trees in the timber industry a little later. During the Bronze Age, the best available military technology was… Bronze…. Bronze was made by mixing soft Copper with another metal to harden the final product. The metal most sought after was Tin, but Tin was not plentiful. That’s one of the main reasons that Rome conquered and tried to hold Britain. Tin mines. The more plentiful metal mixed with Copper to make bronze was Arsenic. Hephaestus (or Vulcan, if you happen to be from Birmingham) the Greek blacksmith of the gods was always depicted as being lame with skin sores… likely from neuropathy and skin cancers due to Arsenic poisoning. Arsenicals were also used medicinally (in patent medicines and tonics and in compounds such as Salvarsan for treatment of Syphilis, amongst other diseases). High-society ladies mixed Arsenic with vinegar and chalk to whiten their faces (a recurring theme…). Arsenic trioxide was mixed with Copper acetate to form Copper acetoarsenite… known as Emerald green or Paris green. Depending on the whether the crystals were ground course or fine, the pigment could range from deep true green to vivid (but pale) blue-green. The pigment was known to be highly toxic and was the death of many a painter. The pigment was also used as a rodenticide and insecticide. In addition to being implicated in the accidental death of numerous artists and artisans, the concoction was also nicknamed “inheritance powder”. The symptoms of Arsenic poisoning are eerily similar to cholera, which was often rampant at the time. Thus, poisonings often went undetected, if not unsuspected….

So… as I said… certain occupations carried with them certain occupational risks…. Ladies. Ladies-of-the-Evening. Painters who hung out with Ladies-of-the-Evening. Hatters.

Being a lady certainly carries incalculable risks. Especially if one were into cosmetics. This is not a comprehensive list of dangerous cosmetics. Of course most modern women will assume that the advent of the Food and Drug Administration must mitigate the risk related to modern cosmetics. However, that assumption would be incorrect. Many cosmetics worn by teens and children, but also some scents popular with adults, contain fragrances such as isoamyl acetate or Essence of Banana Oil (Pear Oil is isoamyl acetate dissolved in ethanol)… which is also used as a flavoring. The smell is similar to banana or pear or Juicy Fruit. And… it is a pheromonal chemoattractant for wasp and hornets and yellow jackets and bees… and is considered to be responsible for many deaths annually around the world, particularly in China, Korea and Japan where the Asian Giant Hornet.

That is the conclusion of the experiment. If the majority of people find this narrative tedious and boring, then the thesis is not proved because the restated alternative hypothesis is not disproved; however, if the majority of people find this chain of thoughts interesting or even intriguing, then my thesis is proven using the Scientific Method and will thus supersede the hitherto unproved Pryor’s Theory of Doors… which was most nothing more than spurious conjecture anyway….

Here are some words from my original list that I choose not to include:
Baghdad Battery
lapis lazuli
Prussian blue
carbuncle (not the kind associated with furuncles)
captain’s daughter


One thought on “Word Associations

  1. Pingback: Word Associations | Wright-Wang Extreme Mystery, Inc.

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