16 April 2012

The origin of the word "gasoline"

From the Oxford Dictionaries blog:
[In 1859], oil was struck in Pennsylvania. John Cassell, publisher, coffee merchant, and social campaigner, was soon importing the new and wonderful stuff to London. New and wonderful stuff demands a new and wonderful word so Cassell devised one, inspired presumably by his own name: cazeline. On 27 November 1862 he placed an advertisement in The Times:
The Patent Cazeline Oil, safe, economical, and brilliant … possesses all the requisites which have so long been desired as a means of powerful artificial light.
This is the earliest occurrence of the word to have been found.

Cassell was soon supplying shops across England and Ireland. Business boomed. Then, in Ireland, sales began mysteriously to fall away. Cassell discovered a shopkeeper in Dublin, Samuel Boyd, selling counterfeit cazeline and wrote to him to ask him to stop. Boyd did not reply but instead went through his stock, changing with a single dash of his pen, every ‘C’ into a ‘G’: gazeline was born...

Boyd claimed he had coined gazeline himself in 1862, from the French word gasogène (which is a device for producing fizzy water), and ordered his own labels. But, he said, the labels had been misprinted. The coincidence of Boyd’s printers producing in error the name of the market leader was more than the judge could believe and he ruled for Cassell.

Yet cazeline did not endure. Its latest mention so far found is from 1920. It was gazeline (or gasoline) which flourished.
You learn something every day.


  1. Interesting bit of trivia...now if only you could figure out how to make the price of it go down...sigh

  2. Check out David Bromberg's song:
    She has eyes like crystal water
    Lips like sherry wine
    A body like fine brandy
    but a soul like turpentine

    Oh Momma, you treat your daddy so damn mean
    Oh, When I ask for water
    She gives me gasoline

  3. On the wictionary you can see the three basic types of words for this substance in competition.

    Some form of "benzine" : Used most everywhere that was part of the Austria-hungarian empire and lots of places that were not including German, Hungarian, Estonian, Greek, even Hebrew, Italian, and Tajik.

    That one is interesting to me because most of the hydrocarbons that make up gasoline are straight or branching, not ring shaped as benzine is.

    Some form of "gasoline" : mostly the US and languages it has influenced Spanish, Korean, Japan

    Some form of "petrol" : clearly the remnants of the British Empire Afrikaans, Hindi, and Scottish Gaelic.

  4. To add to the confusion, in French we use the word "essence" to refer to what you call gasoline.
    Meanwhile the terms "gasoil", "gazole" or "diesel" are used interchangeably.


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