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145862.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 7:03 am Reply with quote

An etheromaniac (or etherist or etheromane) is - or was - a person addicted to (or just keen on) inhaling or drinking ether, as an intoxicant. This was a widespread practice in 19th century Ireland. It was also noted in Britain, Norway, France, Russia, Italy and the USA.

Ironically, according to some histories, etheromania began as a result of a temperance campaign (by a Father Matthew in 1838), or else by an official crackdown on illegal distilling; either way, people switched from booze to fumes.

Ether has some advantages over alcohol: although the hit is similar, the user passes through the stages of intoxification much faster - getting stoned quicker, and also getting sober quicker (after “a few minutes,” and with no hangover).

It’s not that easy to drink ether, however: at body temperature, it turns into a gas. So etheromaniacs would drink a glass of cold water, then a shot of ether. The cold water meant that the ether remained cool enough to enter the stomach still in liquid form.

The greatest danger of the habit was burping. “Violent belching of flammable gas,” in fact; this, in an age of naked flames, was dodgy.

I love this: we’ve all heard of the US “spelling bee” or “quilting bee” ... apparently “an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1891 wrote of local women in Ireland holding ‘ether bees’.”

Speaking as someone who found a coke-can crack-pipe in his hedge a few years ago, I sympathise with this: “an article in the Nebraska State Journal in 1897 said, "In London the keepers of the various squares and parks often find under the trees empty vials labelled 'ether' that have been thrown there by the maniacs who quit their homes in order to indulge their favorite passion at their ease".”

The government reclassified ether (in the UK or in Ireland only is not clear) as a controlled poison in the 1890s, making it hard to get hold of for recreational purposes. The practice died out as a result.

Incidentally, when I was at school - around 1975 - there was a craze for inhaling chloroform. Very pleasant, for a while, until you suddenly became thoroughly sick of it and never touched it again. I wonder what other chemistry lab substances have been so used?


145875.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 7:19 am Reply with quote

A methomaniac is an obsolete word for someone who craves alcohol.

S:The Word Museum

145910.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:10 am Reply with quote

Humphry Davy was addicted to Laughing gas (nitrous oxide: N2O). He even wrote an ode to it:
"Yet are my eyes with sparkling lustre fill'd
Yet is my mouth replete with murmuring sound
Yet are my limbs with inward transports fill'd
And clad with new-born mightiness around."

145919.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:22 am Reply with quote

Ether (or, in this context, Aether) is also of course the postulated fifth element which was once thought to exist throughout space and to be the medium of propagation of light, etc, and of actions at a distance such as gravity. Apparently the idea has not been altogether discounted even today; there's something called the Einstein-aether theory which is still taken seriously.

The subject might link us to Einstein and maybe to Dark Energy / Matter (cf question posted elsewhere re what use is a plank in outer space).

All might be a bit technical, though. Plus it'll set John off if he knows we're talking about it.

145924.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:26 am Reply with quote

What's the etymological relationship between the two ethers?

145942.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 8:42 am Reply with quote

I think they're both from the name of a Greek dude who was the personification of the Upper Air, which is what the gods breathe.

Whether the people who first isolated ether the element thought that they had actually found ether the aether I don't know.

Ether and ectoplasm belong in the same train of thought.

146010.  Mon Feb 12, 2007 10:04 am Reply with quote

The nation with the highest proportion of heroin addicts is Iran: between 2 and 3 million addicts.

S: The Indypedia, part 1 (published by the Independent newspaper, 2006).

148265.  Sat Feb 17, 2007 7:57 am Reply with quote

When Marconi invented wireless telegraphy, or radio-telegrams, there was a long discussion in the press and elsewhere about what to call the resulting messages. Amongst the suggestions: etherogram (said to be Marconi’s choice); areogram; Marconigram; radiogram.

S: Michael Quinion: “Gallimaufry” (OUP, 2006)


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