When you get prescription medication, there are often at least three names associated with it. One is the scientific word for the compound. This is normally longer and composed of the official IUPAC-sanctioned chemical prefixes and suffixes. Then there's the name of the active ingredient, which has to be approved by national regulatory bodies. This is a shorter words with a suffix that has to meet naming standards, with each suffix corresponding to a structure and function so pharmacists don't get confuse and make lethal mistakes. The preceding syllables, however, are entirely up to producer's choice, as is the third type of designation: the commercial name. This is not subject to regulation, and is extremely important to the companies, because it needs to be memorable so people pay higher prices for the name brand once the patent expires. Let's look at an often-cited example: Prozac. Its name was arbitrarily invented in the 1980s, its active ingredient is fluoxetine, and its full name is (RS)-N-methyl-3-phenyl-3-[4-(trifluoromethyl)phenoxy]propan-1-amine. I think that's pretty interesting.
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.