"High Tension" Wires?

This has always struck me as a misnomer. Shouldn’t it be “High Voltage” wires?

Or perhaps “High, Tension Wires?”

I say “Hi, tension wires!” Why so tense? :smiley:

IIRC tension is French for voltage.

ETA, confirmed by Google Translate

Brilliant, Thank you Joey!

Engineers use V for voltage and I for current (C is used for capacitance). The I comes from Inensite, which is also French.

I tend to use the phrase “high tension” but a lot of engineers don’t like it and consider it to be slang. In real engineering work though I don’t use either one and instead refer to the line by its voltage (i.e. the “35 KV line” instead of the “high voltage line”).

Thanks ECG, its good to check my Laymans’ musing with a real engineer! I spend too much time wondering about power lines on my daily 126 mile round trip commute on the NJ Turnpike!

Do you have a cite for this? Everything I’ve read on the origin of I for current has just boiled down to “nobody knows”.

(and should that be “intensite”?)

i from the French for ‘current intensity’

It’s the answer I got 6 years ago in a thread I started.

It’s what I was taught in EE 101 many years ago and there are plenty of cites for it.

from “Principles of electrical engineering” By William Henry Timbie, Vannevar Bush, 1922

I was taught it came from the writings of André Marie Ampère (the same guy the unit Ampere or Amp was named after) who called it “l’intensité du courant” but other than “because my professor said so” I don’t have a cite attributing it directly to Ampere.

The SDMB hamsters were hungry and ate my T. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Ok, I’ve really got some cites now.

A paper by Ampere himself showing his use of i for current. Here is one example in plain text that isn’t in the middle of a formula but there are many others throughout the paper:

(bolding mine)

Source: A-M Ampère, Recuil d’Observations Électro-dynamiques, p.56, Paris: Chez Crochard Libraire 1822
PDF download available here: http://www.ampere.cnrs.fr/textes/recueil/pdf/recueilobservationsd.pdf

From poking around on the net, it seems like the French used i for current throughout the 1800s, while the English used c (some cites say this is possibly due to anti-French sentiment at the time). Towards the end of the 1800s the use of c in England declined and everyone pretty much standardized on i.

One cite:

From here: (warning - PDF)

I haven’t found the “international agreement” cited in the other book from my previous post. I believe it may have been the Conference of Electricians held in Paris in 1881, though that seems to have been mostly French and I would be a bit reluctant to call it “international”.

It’s also English for voltage, so why translate from the French?:

Voltage is a kind of “pressure,” and so you’ll see in latin-derived languages the term tension to refer to things like “high blood pressure.”

I’ve seen signs in areas around those big fenced-in electrical transformers, that say both “High Voltage” and “Haute Tension.” I’ve always considered the phrase “high-tension lines” to have started from a non-technical person like a news reporter, and the usage stuck among reporters.

Similar to how news reporters refer to the area where airplanes park as the “tarmac.”

OK, Ampere himself using it that way is a pretty solid cite. I’ll keep that in mind the next time a student asks me, thanks.

Well, according to my outspoken EE professor, “voltage” is a made up word and should never be used. Volt is the measure of electromotive force, just like Ohm is the measure of resistance. But, you don’t call resistance ohmerage, right?

I wonder how he feels about the word amperage, though.

I’m not stating any of this as fact - just what one guy told me during my mandatory EE class while getting my ME degree.

But people who know their electrical terminology might use ohmage.

You practically can’t get more made up than with words like Volt, Ohm and Ampere. Turning people’s names into words is making up words.

It’s been my experience that most pedantic people are wrong.

Ohmerage ia an homage to ohmage.

When I was in EE, I thought the whole system of standardized letters was absurd. I pictured the conversation going something like this:

“Okay, we’ve got V for voltage and R for resistance. What’s next?”
“Capacitance. Let’s use C.”
“C it is. We’re on a roll. Okay, next up is…current. Crap, we just used C. Is there another letter we can use?”
“How about I?”
“I? What the hell does I have to do with current? Why not A for amps?”
“No, we might need A later. Just put I.”
“Fine, I it is. What variable is next?”
“Lemme see…inductance.”
“Son of a bitch…”

Personally, I prefer “voltage”, for teaching purposes, to “potential”. The latter is too easily confused with “potential energy”. Of course, the two concepts are closely related, but they’re not the same.

Max Torque, what’s funniest is when you’re grading a test from a student with an equation sheet, but who doesn’t know how to use it, and just grabs some random equation that has the right letters in it. I’ve seen quite a few students use a formula involving length when they were supposed to be looking for inductance. Or trying to find a magnetic dipole moment, but instead using the permeability of space.