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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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October 13, 2009

Those Zanies at Angewandte Chemie

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Posted by Derek

I've been meaning for some time to acknowledge whoever it is at Angewandte Chemie that works in so many odd musical references in the abstracts. There are the usual runs of weak puns - and don't you wish that Nature, among other journals, would consider how unintelligible those jokes are as headlines in their RSS feeds? Lukeward wordplay is the standard of wit for most scientific prose, and I've been guilty of it myself. (I have to say, though, this one rises above the pack, this one is fairly hard to take, and this one and this one definitely cross the pain threshold).

But I wonder how many readers have noted recent references to Mike Oldfield, Ace of Base, Offspring, and even the Sex Pistols? Have the editors noticed, for that matter? (This joke suggests a speaker of American English is at work, since I doubt most Germans have heard of the American Automobile Association).

And I suppose that the "Beer Barrel Polka" and "On Top of Old Smokey" can't be left off this list, either. Nor can other pop-culture name checks to Marvel Comics and the original Star Trek. Someone over there's having a good time. . .

Note: this has been going on for some time. Carbon-Based Curiosities adduces some other examples from about a year ago, including ricochet shots off "My Sharona", Chic, Jimi Hendrix, the Terminator movies, and the X-Files. . .

Comments (29) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. Lou on October 13, 2009 1:58 PM writes...

Reading this, my mind suddenly jumped to the story of James May and how he got sacked from "Autocar" magazine. Are you sure it's not a competition? :D

It makes me want to read the journal, even though I'm nowhere near the field.

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2. Sili on October 13, 2009 2:37 PM writes...

A great many of those go right over my head.

Iono - it seems to me that physicists have been doing this for a while. Perhaps it's just become more acceptable for chemists to get their geek on, too.

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3. Anonymous on October 13, 2009 2:37 PM writes...

Old fogey here who still browses journals the old-fashioned way (By going to the website and scrolling through the abstracts!) Now I gotta get my feeds set up, just to enjoy the coolness from Angewandte ...

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4. Arjun on October 13, 2009 2:56 PM writes...

I agree, the puns at Angewandte have been just ridiculous as of late. However, these are the author's doing not the editor's, right?

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5. chiraljones on October 13, 2009 4:28 PM writes...

I'd like to think that while looking at dry scientific writing all day, the editors over at Angewandte need something to keep themselves (relatively) sane human beings. Hence the attempts to reference things outside of the scientific realm.

I'm 99% sure that the editors of other journals are also (relatively) sane human beings... but with nothing but sciency dryness, that other 1% has reason to believe that they are robots... Which may explain publishing things like "NaH as an Oxidant."

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6. Chrispy on October 13, 2009 4:53 PM writes...

The silly titles in Nature make me crazy. Not just musical allusions -- I am typically scanning a table of contents to find articles I want to read, and the titles are inevitably so clever and unrelated to the paper that it is impossible to tell what they are about.

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7. excimer on October 13, 2009 5:43 PM writes...

Not to mention ChemCatChem has gotten into the act with references to classic video games!

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8. G1 on October 13, 2009 8:47 PM writes...

I think in this case, the authors went for the kills with the suggestive title and byline.


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9. syregnask on October 14, 2009 2:30 AM writes...

Re: Arjun

I think you're right.

While I don't know if some of these 'attention getters' are in the end construed by the editors, I do know that authors are at least asked submit a suggestion themselves.

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10. eugene on October 14, 2009 2:43 AM writes...

"While I don't know if some of these 'attention getters' are in the end construed by the editors, I do know that authors are at least asked submit a suggestion themselves."

What? Those bastards never asked me for an idea and we ended up with a boring non pun abstract. I think it's the editors doing most of the time.

One of these days, I'm going to say Andjewandte (or JACasS, or Chemical misCommunications) out loud in front of someone really important with no sense of humor, and really get in trouble for my pet nicknames for the journals. I've been using them so often, that it takes a conscious effort at a conference or when speaking with a visiting professor, not to screw up.

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11. Pedro S on October 14, 2009 5:44 AM writes...

What do you think of this gem?

"Foregoing Rigidity to Achieve Greater Intimacy"


This is getting ridiculous...

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12. 123 on October 14, 2009 5:49 AM writes...

Well, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong adding some humor and curiosity to a serious business of Science. And I know it is not always the Author´s choice and often ímporved´by editorial staff.

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13. JAB on October 14, 2009 8:10 AM writes...

Well, I can say that the editors started it with a paper I coauthored: the tag they put in the abstract was "A bicycle built for two" but I took it the rest of the way to "A bicycle built for tubulin". (Angew 47:1-5, 2009).

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14. Anonymous on October 14, 2009 8:11 AM writes...

I think you mean "lukeWARM wordplay".

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15. Lu on October 14, 2009 10:11 AM writes...

This cr*p does a fabulous job in alienating a foreign reader.
International edition, my ass!

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16. Sili on October 14, 2009 10:12 AM writes...


What am I missing here? I seem to suck at wordplay.

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17. molecular architect on October 14, 2009 11:24 AM writes...

Well, this one isn't in the abstract but this title, in conjunction with the surnames of the last two authors, gets my vote as the most sexually suggestive I've ever seen in a scientific journal.

Stiff, and Sticky in the Right Places: The Dramatic Influence of Preorganizing Guest Binding Sites on the Hydrogen Bond-Directed Assembly of Rotaxanes
Francesco G. Gatti, David A. Leigh, Sergey A. Nepogodiev, Alexandra M. Z. Slawin, Simon J. Teat, and Jenny K. Y. Wong

J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2001, 123, 5983-5989

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18. eugene on October 14, 2009 2:57 PM writes...

#16 "What am I missing here? I seem to suck at wordplay."

You're not missing anything. That's the worst one for me since I couldn't come up with anything. So, I just say it as someone who hasn't heard a word of German would pronounce it when seeing 'Angewandte' written for the first time. You know, like: "The Count of Monte Crisco" by Alexander Dummass (that one was from 'The Shawshank Redemption' by the way). It makes for great moments when undergraduate summer students assume you are a simpleton for mispronouncing it, but that's about it.

If you can come up with a better one, I'd be much obliged. It's gotta be English, so we can't use plays on words like 'Schonbekannte Chemie'

I'm also in need of a better one for Chem. Comm. actually.

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19. startup on October 14, 2009 3:11 PM writes...

I've never really paid any attention to it but the idea seems stupid to me. Who are they trying to appeal to? 12-year olds?

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20. Sili on October 14, 2009 3:14 PM writes...

What part of "I suck at wordplay" didn't you understand? (smiley goes here)

Ah. Simon! Haven't seen him in ages since I fell out of the business. Always a hard one to google, he.

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21. Sili on October 14, 2009 3:23 PM writes...

And what, pray tell, is wrong with appealing to twelve-year-olds? Is it like my tutoring inorganic chemistry to scare away future competition? (Didn't work.)

And what 12-yo has ever heard (of) Roll Out the Barrell?

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22. Anonymous on October 14, 2009 4:42 PM writes...

"And what, pray tell, is wrong with appealing to twelve-year-olds?" Because 12-year-olds don't read Angew. Chem. They should try to appeal to 20+ year olds.

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23. Anonymous BMS Researcher on October 14, 2009 8:05 PM writes...

The classic case of a pun in an important scientific paper remains this one:

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24. syregnask on October 15, 2009 2:55 AM writes...


OK, maybe I should qualify that. I believe you are asked to submit an abstract, and knowing their format it seems logical to submit an opening line as part of your abstract.

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25. Nick K on October 15, 2009 12:25 PM writes...

I'd be happier if the editors of Angewandte spent a bit more time looking critically at the quality and honesty of their articles rather than inventing weak puns. A bit more experimental in the organic papers wouldn't go amiss either.

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26. Anonymous on October 20, 2009 1:56 AM writes...

How about this one? "Right said thread."
Having seen labmates and classmates get papers published in Angewandte, I think that many of these catchy phrases are written by authors and not by editors.

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