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Old 04-25-2017, 04:26 AM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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Why is the symbol for arsenic As?

Why not Ar? And then As could be used for astatine and the symbols would be a wee bit more rational and less likely to be confused.

Before anyone jumps in about Ar being argon, note that the symbol for argon was just A until 1957. Besides which, they knew about arsenic long before argon was discovered. So the symbol Ar was available when they assigned As to arsenic.
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Old 04-25-2017, 04:41 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Symbols weren't originally assigned systematically, were they? Like names, they were assigned by the discoverer, which is how we ended up with tungsten being W (it has two different names, assigned by two different discoverers). Whomever assigned it an abbreviation which "caught" happened to use As, but to figure out why you'd have to begin by finding out who it was, and then look at the documents in which he did it to see if an explanation crops up.

Later when chemical symbols were reviewed systematically, people were already used to "Arsenic is As" so it was kept.
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Old 04-25-2017, 04:48 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Maybe because the origin of the word is al-zarnikh, a compound of the Arabic definite article al- and Persian zarnikh, the name for the metal (derived from the word for gold, zar, because of the strongly yellow-colored As2S3 compound called orpiment, which means gold pigment). Somewhere on the way to Europe the z got changed to an s. The symbol As takes its first letter from the Arabic article and the s (which should have been a z) from the original Persian name. As linguists would say, it follows the morpheme boundary. Just a guess.
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Old 04-25-2017, 05:05 AM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is offline
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Jacob Berzelius was the first person to assign letter symbols to elements. He was the one who assigned As to arsenic, Ag to silver, and Au to gold. Later chemists thought it was a good idea and kept most of his symbols, adding new ones as more elements were discovered. There's some justification for his system:

http://elements.vanderkrogt.net/chemical_symbols.php
Quote:
The chemical signs ought to be letters, for the greater facility of writing, and not to disfigure a printed book. Though this last circumstance may not appear of any great importance, it ought to be avoided whenever it can be done. I shall take, therefore, for the chemical sign, the initial letter of the Latin name of each elementary substance: but as several have the same initial letter, I shall distinguish them in the following manner:--

1. In the class which I call metalloids, I shall employ the initial letter only, even when this letter is common to the metalloid and some metal.

2. In the class of metals, I shall distinguish those that have the same initials with another metal, or a metalloid, by writing the first two letters of the word.

3. If the first two letters be common to two metals, I shall, in that case, add to the initial letter the first consonant which they have not in common:

for example, S = sulphur, Si = silicium, St = stibium (antimony), Sn = stannum (tin), C = carbonicum, Co = cobaltum (cobalt), Cu = cuprum (copper), O = oxygen, Os = osmium, &c.
He based his symbols on the Latin names. Arsenic is arsenicum in Latin, which would have the symbol Ar but this is shared with argentum (silver). Hence arsenic gets As and silver gets Ag.
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Old 04-25-2017, 06:45 AM
BwanaBob BwanaBob is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terminus Est View Post
Jacob Berzelius was the first person to assign letter symbols to elements. He was the one who assigned As to arsenic, Ag to silver, and Au to gold. Later chemists thought it was a good idea and kept most of his symbols, adding new ones as more elements were discovered. There's some justification for his system:

http://elements.vanderkrogt.net/chemical_symbols.php


He based his symbols on the Latin names. Arsenic is arsenicum in Latin, which would have the symbol Ar but this is shared with argentum (silver). Hence arsenic gets As and silver gets Ag.
Stibium == Sb, not St.
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Old 04-25-2017, 06:50 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Originally Posted by BwanaBob View Post
Stibium == Sb, not St.
It is now, but Berzelius initially (or at some point) assigned St
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Old 04-25-2017, 07:24 AM
Nava Nava is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terminus Est View Post
He based his symbols on the Latin names. Arsenic is arsenicum in Latin, which would have the symbol Ar but this is shared with argentum (silver). Hence arsenic gets As and silver gets Ag.
But he could have used Ar for silver (alphabetical order), so it's at least in part whimsy.
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Old 04-25-2017, 07:33 AM
Terminus Est Terminus Est is offline
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
But he could have used Ar for silver (alphabetical order), so it's at least in part whimsy.
Berzelius rule #3. If the first two letters be common to two metals, I shall, in that case, add to the initial letter the first consonant which they have not in common.

Ar is common to both arsenicum and argentum, so you go to the first consonant which they don't have in common, 's' for arsenicum and 'g' for argentum. Hence As for arsenic and Ag for silver.
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Old 04-25-2017, 07:40 AM
Northern Piper Northern Piper is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
Symbols weren't originally assigned systematically, were they? Like names, they were assigned by the discoverer, which is how we ended up with tungsten being W (it has two different names, assigned by two different discoverers).


Yes, Tungsten is Wolfram in German and some other European languages. It was discovered by two Spaniards, based on previous research done by a German chemist, from a substance called Wolframite. They chose to call it Wolfram, hence "W".
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Old 04-25-2017, 08:33 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Wow, I never realized that there were actual rules according to which the symbols were determined. I figured it was just the equivalent of a big look-up table, with each assigned basically arbitrarily.

And to his point about using letters, the previous convention used astrological symbols, like ☿ and ♄. But those are tough to do in a printing press, if you don't already have type-pieces for them.
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Old 04-25-2017, 08:42 AM
Ruken Ruken is offline
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Tough to do in HTML too; they don't render on my phone.
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Old 04-25-2017, 08:46 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
It is now, but Berzelius initially (or at some point) assigned St
According to his own rules he shouldn't have done, because St is common to both Stibium and Stannum.
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Old 04-25-2017, 08:50 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Originally Posted by Colophon View Post
According to his own rules he shouldn't have done, because St is common to both Stibium and Stannum.
Yeah - it looks like he may have only mistakenly used St in some writings.
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Old 04-25-2017, 09:16 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Huh, I know that some ancient web browsers are still around that don't do Unicode, but I wouldn't have thought that there'd be any phone browsers that didn't.
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Old 04-25-2017, 10:40 AM
Ruken Ruken is offline
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It doesn't seem to have trouble with other symbols. So I don't know what the issue is. Chrome on Android today.
  #16  
Old 04-25-2017, 11:32 PM
Atamasama Atamasama is offline
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Originally Posted by Ruken View Post
It doesn't seem to have trouble with other symbols. So I don't know what the issue is. Chrome on Android today.
Chromium got jealous of the other elements that's what.
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Old 04-26-2017, 11:59 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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So my guess that it involved the way British chemists pronounced arsenic seems to be wrong.
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Old 04-27-2017, 12:43 AM
Derleth Derleth is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
Huh, I know that some ancient web browsers are still around that don't do Unicode, but I wouldn't have thought that there'd be any phone browsers that didn't.
Any browser new enough to be on a modern phone can do Unicode fine, but if there's no font installed with the right characters, there isn't anything the browser can do.
  #19  
Old 04-27-2017, 12:49 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
So my guess that it involved the way British chemists pronounced arsenic seems to be wrong.
I was thinking New England chemists.
"I put the ahsnic in my cah by the havahd yahd"
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Old 04-27-2017, 01:46 PM
pulykamell pulykamell is online now
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Originally Posted by Ruken View Post
It doesn't seem to have trouble with other symbols. So I don't know what the issue is. Chrome on Android today.
Works on Safari on iOS, if we're keeping score here trying to figure it out.
  #21  
Old 04-27-2017, 10:27 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Originally Posted by Little Nemo View Post
So my guess that it involved the way British chemists pronounced arsenic seems to be wrong.
Just like my guess involving Arabic morphemes was wrong!
  #22  
Old 04-28-2017, 07:42 AM
BwanaBob BwanaBob is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mangetout View Post
It is now, but Berzelius initially (or at some point) assigned St
But according to his own rule:

Stannum
Stibium

Both start with St so neither should ever be able to use St

Move onto first different consonant and you get the proper Sn and Sb.
  #23  
Old 04-28-2017, 09:34 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BwanaBob View Post
But according to his own rule:

Stannum
Stibium

Both start with St so neither should ever be able to use St

Move onto first different consonant and you get the proper Sn and Sb.
See post #13.
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