digis asked in Society & CultureLanguages · 1 month ago

English speakers, could you help me?

I am not a native speaker of English. Could someone explainto me what does the phrase "a hard little plug" refer to in the following paragraph?

Another gas provided the first strong portable lights.

In 1836

Humphry Davy’s cousin Edmund discovered acetylene, a hard little plug of hydrogen and triple-bonded carbon (C H ).

It burned with startling ferocity and quickly found use in street lamps, buoys, and lighthouses.

(does the "plug" mean "a little pieceo of hard material"? If yes, why then it is called gas?)

2 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    1 month ago

    I too, as a native speaker of over 70 years, would struggle with 'a hard little plug' if it refers to a gas.  I must assume that he means the chemical compound or mixture specified in acetylene.  All the entries in the 'Oxford Dictionary of English' are of solid things, not gasses, as I would expect from my general experience of English. The  sole exception is 'plug' as a from of advertising.

    The writer has a slightly strange view of the English suitable even for a general article, if he (I assume 'he'!) is the same person who used 'knock it off' as in your other question.

  • Ron
    Lv 6
    1 month ago

    I found the source. I believe the author was simply being playful, referencing the structure of the molecule as a hard plug. If you look it up, it is a very tightly bound, linear molecule rather than a box or gem shape. Hence, jokingly calling it a plug. 

    It is a gas at room temperature, but all substances, even gases, are made up of their component molecules. Steam, water, and ice, are made up of the same component molecule, H20, but it takes different states depending on temperature.

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