Mole Conversions
Why is 'mol" an Abbreviation for 'mole'

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I did not write this. I don't know who did. I got it off the USENET newsgroup sci.chem a few years back.

The first people to use the the word that sounds like "mole" were Germans. They abbreviated "Molekuel" in such a way as to retain the long o sound in their language, and "Mol" did the trick very nicely. They couldn't possibly have used the spelling "Mole" because the Germans have nothing to do with Mexican dishes and they certainly did not want to feminize the abbreviation for a neuter word.

Back in those turn-of-the-century days we English speaking people were still metaphorically swinging from in the chemical trees babbling "combining weight" when this laconic Teutonic triumph occurred. The first translator had a hard choice to make: to retain the form or the sound of the new term. He knew that most Brits and Amis would frown at anything that wasn't some sort of alcohol ending in "ol." He probably surmised that the British might use a long "o' like the Germans, but he also reasoned that the Americans would balk and blurt out a sound like "moll" with all its unscientific connotations and invitations to double entendre.

Finally, he considered the fact that the Americans were the sort of people who mispronounce and misspell good German words like "Wolfram" so badly that they come out "tungsten." and, with, a stroke, he wrote "mole," thus preserving a semblance of the sound if not the form of the original utterance.


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