In the popular Italian dialect the word ‘’chimicare’’ is a verb with a little vintage connotation, it means something close to analyze, or similar, something like to submit a sample to a chemical analysis.
This term formally does not exist in Italian language; it was also denigrated and opposed by experts in chemistry themselves, which have probably seen in that word a mirror of ignorance with which large part of the population refer to chemistry, in particular during the past decades.
The term has been rehabilitated in Italian language, at least to an informal level, after been used by the famous Italian writer Primo Levi (born in Turin in 1919 and well known for his autobiographical writings where describes his imprisonment in the Nazi camp of Auschwitz). Primo Levi, in his autobiography inspired by his professional life (The Periodic System) in the chapter entitled ‘’Arsenic’’ tells of a dignified man that one day brings a sample of suspicious sugar to be analyzed ‘’da chimicare’’.
You will find later that the sugar was corrupted with arsenic from someone that definitely did not love that dignified man.
The term ‘’chimicare’’ in its popular connotation means to analyze, nothing more, it means to process a chemical analysis. If it is so why our grandfather could not use the term to analyze, as we have learned to do today?
Let’s try to look through the word, and see beyond.
Admiration, mistrust or, in a single word, the respect that people in the old times had in another men professions, especially for those that precisely he could not understand at all. He could not admit the mechanical process, almost automatic, of a chemical analysis; a process that today is instrumental and sterile, unless a signature of approval of chemical-bureaucrat.
Within the term ‘’chimicare’’ there was much more: there was the conviction of a process based on knowledge and experience, where the real protagonist was the chemist and its science and not just the analysis carried out. Perhaps is a similarity with the work in fields and meadows, with craftsman from which the chemical has taken the first steps and for me would still have much to learn.
Today knowledge of chemistry is available to all: I’m not speaking of complex calculations and formulas learned at school, I am speaking of concepts and simple descriptions to the limit of a chat in a bar.
How many times I like to speak of chemistry with friends and colleges that are not chemist, also in front of a coffee! Why they do make brown sugar from cane but not from beet? Will be really safe drinking the decaffeinated?
Why today that it rains the bartender has more curly hair? Each time we ask these questions, especially when we try to give ourselves the answers through simple concepts as for example of what made this one thing, here is where we have begun to ‘’chimicare’’ … !