Word of the Day : November 18, 2011


verb VUL-kuh-nyze


: to subject to or to undergo the process of treating crude or synthetic rubber or similar plastic material chemically to give it useful properties (as elasticity, strength, and stability)


Rubber that has been vulcanized is not just for tires -- a wide range of articles, from hoses and hockey pucks to rubber bands and rain boots, are made with it.

"The sulfur in the juice of morning glories is used to vulcanize rubber, but it was used long before Goodyear as a hallucinogenic, a laxative and possibly to make rubber bouncing balls." -- From an article by Judy Terry at press-citizen.com (Iowa City Press-Citizen), October 19, 2011

Did You Know?

"Vulcanize" sounds like something Spock from Star Trek might do, but the explanation behind this word has more to do with ancient mythology than it does with science fiction. Vulcanization involves heating rubber in combination with sulfur. The Roman god Vulcan (whose Greek counterpart is Hephaestus) was the god of fire and of skills that used fire, such as metalworking. So when Charles Goodyear discovered that high heat would result in stronger rubber, he called the process "vulcanization" after the god of fire. Goodyear stumbled upon the idea in 1839 and acquired a patent for it in 1844, but the words "vulcanize" and "vulcanization" didn't appear in print until 1845 and 1846 respectively.

Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of "cerulean," our Word of the Day from November 1? The answer is ...


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