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Is “cosmonuclide” really a word?

May 22, 2009

Q: Is ‘cosmonuclide’ really a word?

A: Yes. It’s a French word meaning ‘cosmogenic nuclide.’ The French Ministry of Science, as part of a nationwide campaign to combat Anglification, requires French researchers to leverage their scientific contributions to revive, rather than render irrelevant, the French language. Moderate elements argued at first that the phrase ‘nuclide cosmogenique,’ although similar to the English, would be acceptable because the word ‘cosmogenic’ contains Latin roots, and the word ‘nuclide’ ends in ‘e.’ However, after an extended strike that paralyzed French AMS facilities for weeks, a group of determined activists forced the adoption of ‘cosmonuclide.’ Despite the subsequent downfall of Claude Allègre during the “Juillet Noir” purge of Ministry technocrats, the phrase entered the open (that is, English-language) scientific literature and has now been adopted by a variety of international researchers as a means of fighting American scientific hegemony. If it is too much work to type ‘cosmic-ray-produced radionuclide’ in your manuscripts,  ‘cosmonuclide’ is preferable to any of the confusing acronyms that are available (see a separate post on acronyms).

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