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Disadvantages of using chemical symbols

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    Hi,

    Well, I understand that there are many advantages for using chemical symbols in the periodic table (for example it increases scientific communication across the world), but what disadvantages are there?

    Thanks in advance for any replies!
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    it's diffcult for non-english speakers, or people not familiar with latin/ greek?

    like sulphur must be hard for a chinese person to say/ understand. and Pb hard to remember for lead (but the latin people amongst us will see the link with the word plumber)
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    The key disadvantage is that you have to know what they mean to gain access to any of the advantages of them.
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    (Original post by hazzypants)
    it's diffcult for non-english speakers, or people not familiar with latin/ greek?

    like sulphur must be hard for a chinese person to say/ understand. and Pb hard to remember for lead (but the latin people amongst us will see the link with the word plumber)
    Why would Chinese people have to say 'sulphur'?
    Surely they would use the word for it in their own language... as would any other nationality.
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    (Original post by charco)
    Why would Chinese people have to say 'sulphur'?
    Surely they would use the word for it in their own language... as would any other nationality.
    Yeh but the symbol would be the same. Like Pb seems illogical to people who don't know Latin. Carbon is C which could sound like anything in Hindi or Swahili or Portuguese or whatever, and therefore be hard to remember.

    I know it's a weak argument, but I think the periodic table has very few dis-advantages.
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    Surely they'd say 'sulfur', just as IUPAC wants us all to do?
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    (Original post by pigetrational)
    Surely they'd say 'sulfur', just as IUPAC wants us all to do?
    okay a question about that. Why? Why has it been decided to drop the 'ph' in sulphur and replace it with sulfur. Even the TSR spell checker outlines sulphur being spelt wrong. Sad day indeed.
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    Confusing Plumbate (lead) and Stannate (tin), also leading to annoying chemistry quizzes involving the use of letters in the periodic table.
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    (Original post by ChemistBoy)
    The key disadvantage is that you have to know what they mean to gain access to any of the advantages of them.
    :yep: If you're trying to present something to "the general public" most people probably did science a long time ago/haven't done it at all so the symbols would be meaningless to them. Then again it probably wouldn't matter because you'll have to explain to them your findings anyway.

    As for the above I still spell it sulphur...
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    (Original post by motiv3)
    okay a question about that. Why? Why has it been decided to drop the 'ph' in sulphur and replace it with sulfur. Even the TSR spell checker outlines sulphur being spelt wrong. Sad day indeed.
    Sulfur is the correct spelling. Just like Al being 'aluminium' and not 'aluminum'.

    As for disadvantages, the only one I can think of is that they won't mean much to a lay person, but that's pretty weak!
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    (Original post by Revd. Mike)
    Sulfur is the correct spelling. Just like Al being 'aluminium' and not 'aluminum'.

    As for disadvantages, the only one I can think of is that they won't mean much to a lay person, but that's pretty weak!
    So originally it was spelt sulfur? Then we adapted it to sulphur?
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    Some poor arguements I can think of are that the table itself is huge making it a pain if you're only interested in a certain group of elements (though most related elements are listed very well by the table), and doesn't really show any relation between certain properties of transition metals (though it shows some others, and it could probably be adapted to show more, like I said, poor arguement). An arguement against chemical symbols for equations is that some require two letters which can be confusing in equations (most equations use one letter and sub/superscripts), and some use the same letter that you may use for a constant/variable in chemistry/physics so it can get messy in essays. It also removes an understanding from what happens in a chemical equation, conserving elements is easy and arranging them in the logical way isn't much further, and this takes away the need to understand the process behind what is happening (i.e. the stuff with electrons flying between things and bonds forming, any intermediate reactions etc. I don't really know beyond my memory of A-level chemistry). Some more examples of the above disadvantage would be Fe - Iron, Na - Sodium, K- Potassium, Au - gold, Ag-silver, these abbreviations don't seem to show any relation to the English word.
    In general though they're useful things, I'll never write out full names for elements/compounds again.
    Also, sulfur? Screw that, it will always be sulphur.
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    (Original post by motiv3)
    So originally it was spelt sulfur? Then we adapted it to sulphur?
    According to the OED the word 'soufre' was first used in Old English literature from either the Dutch (sulferen), or French (soufrer) in 1036... solfer, solfre and sulfur (and other variations) are all used from this date.

    Pretty soon after that the spelling of sulphur appears and the two forms are used interchangeably for a while until gradually the sulphur form is adopted and reinforced.

    Sulfur is recognised as an American spelling.
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    (Original post by charco)

    Sulfur is recognised as an American spelling.
    And also the correct one, IUPAC agreed on it.
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    They are all from the latin names for the elements.
    Iron is from the latin ferrum.
    Potassium comes from arabic originally, though in latin it is kalium.
    Sodium is from natrium (latin), though again i think it may be arabic to begin with.
    Gold is from the latin aurum, and silver is greek originally, but the symbol again comes from the latin argentum.
    As for how the chinese see it, i refer you to the accurate and reliable wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese...mical_elements

Updated: February 28, 2009
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