Unless Even if you’ve been living under a rock, you know what an animal is. But do you know what an aminal is? Well, it’s two things:
(1) A metathesis of the word “animal”
(2) A chemistry term for a particular arrangement of atoms (functional group).
And do you know what a metathesis is? Well, it’s two things:
(1) A Nobel Prize-winning chemical reaction that has become wildly popular over the last couple of decades.
(2) A rearrangement of letters, sounds, or words; such as the difference between animal and aminal.
Aminal does not rhyme with animal. Instead, the accent is on the last syllable: am-in-AL. It’s an organic chemistry term, and refers to a sequence of atoms that looks like the following:
Specifically, an aminal consists of a carbon atom with two nitrogen atoms attached to it by single bonds. If, instead of two nitrogens, a carbon is bound to just one nitrogen and one oxygen, that cluster of atoms is called a hemiaminal (sort of a half-aminal).
Metathesis is a term with both a linguistics meaning and a chemistry meaning. In linguistics, metathesis is when two letters or sounds within a word switch position. Little kids frequently perform unintentional metathesis when they speak:
nakpin vs. napkin
pasghetti vs. spaghetti
Adults do it too:
nucular vs. nuclear
Feburary vs. February
Linguistic metathesis can also be when two sounds or words in a sentence switch positions. Alcohol tends to facilitate this type of metathesis:
I’m not as think as you drunk I am.
Metathesis in chemistry is the same as metathesis in linguistics, except that it is carbon atoms – rather than letters or sounds – switching position:
This is a chemical reaction that doesn’t just happen on its own – large teams of researchers have invested many years into developing conditions to make this happen in a controlled and predictable way. It requires a special metal catalyst – usually involving ruthenium or molybdenum – to help the carbons swap positions.