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A popular joke describes the danger of dihydrogen monoxide. It's claimed that this colorless, odorless, and tasteless substance results in thousands of deaths every year. Assorted other perils are cited, and finally the reader is warned to stay away from it as far as possible.

The joke is that dihydrogen monoxide (H2O) is a made-up chemical name for water.

With their long, exotic-sounding names, chemicals often frighten us. Yet, all of us (like everything else in the universe) are made up of thousands of chemicals. No wonder, when we meet a person, the first thing we look for is chemistry.

A number of words derived from chemical names have colored the English language, as we shall see this week.

bromide (BRO-myd) noun

1. A tired or meaningless remark.

2. A tiresome or boring person.

[From bromine, from Greek bromos (stench).]

In earlier times, potassium bromide used to be taken as a sedative. So any statement that was intended to be soothing ("Don't worry, everything will be OK.") acquired the name bromide. Eventually any commonplace or tired remark and anyone uttering such remarks came to be known as a bromide.

The term was popularized in the title of Gelett Burgess's 1906 book "Are You a Bromide?" It was to promote this book that Burgess coined the term "blurb".

"His daddy occasionally pops back in to dispense nonsensical bits of advice -- 'If you're not first, you're last' -- a bromide that the young Ricky Bobby adopts as his motto."
Teresa Wiltz; Where There's Will; Washington Post; Aug 4, 2006.

See more usage examples of bromide in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it. -Frank A. Clark, writer (1911- )

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