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Blame It On The Brain(s) Behind The ACIEs Puns

So. My breaking point came a few weeks ago when I read one of ACIE’s genius abstract caption titles, “Just another Mannich Monday.” After laughing out loud, I proceeded to hum the cheesy tune by the Bangles, loudly, from C&EN’s rooftop Berlin office, for three days. From here until perpetuity, the lyrics “I can’t be late because I guess I just won’t get paid” will remind me of Mannich-derived, stereoselective, one-pot syntheses of “spirocycles, 1-aminoindanes, and 5,6-fused azabicycles that have a quaternary carbon center.”

Yeah yeah. I know I’m not the first to grin, groan, or comment about the puns, pop references, and general goofiness ACIE puts into its online abstracts. Many a blogger (Derek Lowe, Excimer, “Phil,” and Chiral Jones ) have also, um, “admired” ACIE’s ability to bring Shakespeare (“Double, double, no toil and trouble”), Star Trek (“Beam me up,” twice), the X-files (“The truth is out there“), and the disembodied voice from the London Underground (“Mind the gap”) into the world of chemistry. The journal has even gotten pretty risqué of late with “Metal ménage à trois” and “Balls galore!”

But Mannich Monday followed soon on the heels of the caption “The Write Stuff,” which permitted the New Kids On The Block hit–(oh yes, here’s the video)–to breach my consciousness for the first time in 20 years—a particularly traumatic reminder of the boy band phenomenon.

So much so, that I had to meet the evil mastermind behind it all.

So I contacted the friendly folks at ACIE, asking whether I could interview (and then, um, perhaps, hound) the person responsible for all the journal’s quirky little abstract captions.

You can imagine my palpable disappointment when Guy Richardson, one of ACIE’s senior associate editors broke the news that the journal’s doozies, like most of science, aren’t the work of a lone genius, but the output of many minds. According to Richardson, “The majority of these texts are indeed the handiwork of the editors (there are about a dozen Ph.D. chemists who work for ACIE, all of whom are native English speakers), but some very good texts do, in fact, come from the authors, and we are always very grateful to authors who join in the fun.”

Yet someone had come up with the Mannich Monday gem, and that someone, I found, is an ACIE editor named Andrew Kelly. He’s only been on staff for a few months “but clearly has a knack for this kind of thing,” Richardson notes. So kudos to you, Dr. Kelly. And here’s a challenge: Try slipping Walk Like An Egyptian into an ACIE caption, given its (remote) chemical connection. (The guy who wrote the pop hit is brother to the chemist who did alot of the early bench work for Visudyne, a macular degeneration drug.)

While we’re on the topic of the humor hot spot of Weinheim, Germany, where ACIE’s headquarters is located, I’ve received a few inquiries about whether the German version of the journal has abstracts that are just as punny. The answer, I fear, is no.

Many of the German abstract titles have a nice alliterative ring to them, and there are definitely a few puns (one about ruthenium employs the element’s symbol: “Ru-ndum erneuert,” which means “completely refurbished” and is possibly droll if you read the article), but there are no thigh-slapping groaners–that I could find.

It would be unfair to expect a snappy German translation of “Just another Mannich Monday” because it’s in reference to an English pop tune. But the risqué “Metal ménage a trois,” which needs no translation, was skipped in favor of “Die Kraft dreier Metalle,” meaning “the power of three metals.” Ah well.

Fearing that my German skills aren’t good enough to catch subtle hilarity, I recruited several German chemists whose sense of humor I hold in high regard to help me scan the German abstracts. The humor task force agreed with my general consensus… but we are happy to be challenged by someone who wants to dig deeper into the archives. Time to ante-up, German speakers.


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  • Feb 22nd 201009:02
    by David Bradley

    With incest, malaria, and disability in the news re: Tutankhamen’s demise, I suspect Dr Kelly will find it rather easy to sub a headline based around Walk Like an Egyptian, but if the Hero Takes a Fall I think you’d see him in a Different Light, and you’d have to Let it Go.

  • Feb 24th 201004:02
    by Sarah Everts

    Ha! David, your 1980s pop medley composition skills could get you recruited by ACIE–or in another era, by Weird Al Yankowic for help arranging one of his pop polkas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOFmW8BrGd4

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