In the 1860s, there was an Englishman named John Cassell marketing a kind of petroleum for powering lamps, named cazeline after himself. Much to his chagrin, a guy in Dublin, named John Boyd, was also selling cazeline, and when Cassell accused him of this, he denied it, going through his stock and changing every c to a g, creating the word gazeline. Cassell took him to court, and won, but it was too late: the name had stuck. Eventually, the z got switched to an s, and the e to an o. Curiously, in Jamaica and Australia, many have also started spelling it gasolene. Going in depth a bit further, back when Cassell sold his petroleum, he used an existing suffix -elene, which meant "oil" and comes from Greek elaia, "olive" (which might have Proto-Hellenic and Pre-Mediterranean sources). Later, gasoline was shortened to gas, which means that the word for what powers your car and the word for the state of helium at STP are theoretically unconnected (though the former definitely was, in part, influenced by the latter). Whoa.
1/6/2018 07:06:48 pm
wait, how was the word for the fuel people use in cars influenced by the word for the state of helium at STP?
1/11/2018 09:09:36 pm
It's not, I said they're unconnected. The joke was that they're both called gases.
1/6/2020 05:16:10 pm
Well done. People like John Cassell are slowly being forgotten in history. Strangely enough this guy researched and thought he had found the real garden of Eden. His work was in a large spectrum.
9/14/2020 02:46:04 am
What did you mean by "though the former definitely was, in part, influenced by the latter"?
1/4/2021 09:47:26 am
I find this Cazolene/gasolene connection dubious, since John Cassell was English and, as far as I can tell, never sold his oil in the US, but rather imported it into the UK. As you say, John Boyd was Irish and selling his similarly named oil in Ireland. Both England and Ireland use the term 'petrol', so why would Americans decide they have to use the term Gazolene or gasolene to avoid any trade mark enfringement, for a product not sold in the US?
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Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.