Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 15, 2021 is:
vulcanize VUL-kuh-nyze verb
: to treat crude or synthetic rubber or similar plastic material with chemicals to give it useful properties (such as elasticity, strength, and stability)
“In 1939 [Charles] Cornell invented a safer and more efficient way of patching holes in tires. Previously people put a piece of rubber on the tire and put heat on it as part of the vulcanization process. Cornell discovered a way to use chemicals to vulcanize the patch to the tire without heat, revolutionizing the industry, [Mike] Murray said.” — Maria DeVito, The Newark (Ohio) Advocate, 18 Mar. 2017
“The station was known for the service it provided vulcanizing tires. This type of repair involves external tire damage, such as sidewall cuts, chipped lugs, cracks in the shoulder, and bead damage.” — Scott Mall, FreightWaves.com, 20 Nov. 2020
Did you know?
Vulcanize might sound like something Spock from Star Trek might do, but the explanation behind this word has more to do with ancient mythology than it does with science fiction. Vulcanization in its simplest form consists of heating rubber with sulfur in order to improve the rubber’s qualities. The Roman god Vulcan (whose Greek counterpart is Hephaestus) was the god of fire and of skills that used fire, such as metalworking. So when Charles Goodyear discovered that high heat would result in stronger rubber, he called the process “vulcanization” after the god of fire. Goodyear developed the idea in 1839 and acquired a patent for it in 1844.