Monthly mixtape is an idea that Eve from “Twist in the Taile” and Evi from “Adventuring Through Pages” came up with, which involves them publishing monthly prompt words which are meant to act as themes for playlists. This month’s prompt is “petrichor”, which is usually defined as:
The smell of earth after rain.
I wanted to share the history of this word. Although it’s a comparatively modern word, its origins are very interesting and add a lot more depth to our understanding of it.
Two Australian researchers, Isabel Joy Bear and Richard Thomas, had been researching the cause behind the widely observed phenomenon of the “after-rain-smell”, that very nature-y, rather pleasant smell that occurs after rainfall. There’s actually a scientific reason behind it, which this article explains pretty simply. If you want a summarised version, this article does too. The original name for this smell was actually “argillaceous odour”, but Thomas and Bear did not favour it on the grounds that it carried the:
“…unwarranted implication that the phenomenon is restricted to clays or argillaceous materials.”
– I J Bear and R G Thomas, The Nature of Argillaceous Odour in Nature, 7 March 1964
Thus, they suggested petrichor, which is a portmanteau of petri (Greek for “stone”) and ichor, which in Greek mythology refers to “the ethereal fluid that is the blood of the gods and/or immortals” (thanks Wikipedia). A beautiful name for an interesting phenomenon, and one that effectively captures its essence.
This is really quite a reach, but existence of such a poetic word for a biological phenomenon is proof to me that the sciences and arts (although many belonging to both camps may not agree) are not and should not be seen as separate entities but rather two closely interlinked fields that, used together, help us see the world in a clearer light. Argillaceous odour conveys nothing to the layman, but the ethereal lilt of petrichor interests and helps him understand the essence of the scientists’ discovery without having to navigate obscure scientific terminology.
1) Please Don’t Say You Love Me – Gabrielle Aplin
2) There’s Only one of You – Nathan Skyes
3) When You Love Someone – James TW
3) Sick of Losing Soulmates – dodie
4) Lucky – Jason Mraz, Colbie Callet
5) Thank God for the Summertime – Ben Rector
6) Encore une Historie – Margot Avril
7) Oxygène – Margaux Avril
8) Das Haus mit dem Basketballkorb – EMMA6
Yay! That was fun.