Skip to main content

Ah, vanity

Every now and then, when I've nothing better to do, I examine the backs of cosmetic bottles and other gubbins that are found lying around the house. (Yes, this is the kind of exciting life a science writer has.)

What I see on the back of some of those bottles is a mystery to me. Actually, a number of mysteries.

Mystery #1 is why some products have a contents list and some don't. The fact that some don't seems to imply it isn't required. So why do it at all? (It could be it's specific products, or it's on the cardboard box instead. Dunno.)

Mystery #2 is who do they think they are fooling with 'aqua'? Pretty well all cosmetic bottle contents have water as their number one ingredient, but the manufacturer seems to think that they can make it sound more impressive by calling it 'aqua'. Only they also seem obliged to give the game away as it is, in fact, always called 'aqua (water)'. So why bother with the 'aqua'? It just makes you seem silly, guys.

Mystery #3 is how a particular company making the product seen above (and for all I know many others do this also) managed to make themselves look even more stupid. Because the next entry is wonderfully bizarre. It's 'Paraffinum liquidum (Mineral oil)'.

Okay, let's break this down. Firstly 'Paraffinum liquidum' sounds more like a rather bad Harry Potter spell than an ingredient. Secondly, it doesn't take a classical education to work out that 'Paraffinum liquidum' is liquid paraffin. You know, that stuff your granny used to put in her portable heater. Actually, a classical education is the last thing you want here. Admittedly 'liquidus' is the Latin for liquid, so they were quite close there, but 'paraffin' is not taken from a Latin word so this is pure pig Latin.

I can see they realize people wouldn't want to know that they are coating themselves in paraffin, but this hardly conceals it, does it guys? They would have been better off sticking to the much more natural and friendly sounding 'Mineral oil' (it must be good for you, it has minerals). Admittedly all this means is something extracted from crude oil - technically petrol and diesel are mineral oils - but it sounds so much better.

So there we have it. Is there a sillier contents label? Almost certainly. But I am yet to find it.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope