Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Y: Not lacking in substance

We're only just around the corner from the end of this year's Blogging from A to Z Challenge and my choice for a Y reason to be cheerful has come as something of a last-minute surprise, if only to me.

As I have said, I enjoy doing crosswords so my weighty Chambers Dictionary is never far away and I'll admit I was having a bit of a struggle coming up with my letter Y reason. Consequently I took to leafing through the dictionary when I came across a word which has really impressed me.

Are you ready for this? My letter Y reason to be cheerful is ylem. Yes, I know, it's a remarkable word, isn't it? What's that? Oh, you want to know what it means. If you already know what it means, I apologise if I seem patronising.

There ought to be some ylem out there somewhere.

Well, ylem is "the original substance from which, according to some theories, the elements developed".

I am seriously offering this as a reason to be cheerful on at least two counts. Firstly, I like it that there is a word - only four letters - which defines something potentially so massive, and secondly I like the concept that there could be an original substance from which the elements developed.

It's a bit like the question of the chicken and the egg: which came first? Before there were elements, there was ylem, but please don't ask me what there was before ylem.

I worked hard for you in coming up with some music to go with this post. Karlheinz Stockhausen wrote a piece called Ylem and there is a song called Ylem by a group called Dark Fortress. Appropriate the music might have been, but these A to Z postings are meant to be reasons to be cheerful and neither piece of music grabbed me. I'm being polite here, they made me want to put my fingers in my ears. So instead we've got something from They Might Be Giants called Meet the Elements. It's a little bit twee, but just seems a bit more fitting.

  • Question: Be honest now, were you pleased to find out that there is a word to describe the original substance from which "according to some theories" the elements developed or did you suddenly have the word "WHY" rattling around your head? You should know by now where to post your comments.

* Picture by Souricette-du-13 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. When it comes to science my brain goes fuzzy and then melts down. But ylem is a wonderful word. I loved the song too. I know a lot of the letters for elements because I too am a cryptic crossword freak. As for the letter Y, when you mentioned chicken and egg I immediately thought of yolk. What could be nicer than dipping your toast soldier into a runny yolk? As always, my mind immediately goes to my stomach.

    1. I'm glad you liked ylem. It was only after I'd published this that I thought of a food-related Y which is Greek yoghurt. The stuff we get here is yummy, very thick and rich.

  2. Interesting word and interesting concept! It sure is the chicken or the egg conundrum. And I absolutely loved the Meet the Elements song! That was quite a catchy tune and actually quite informative with the video to go with it. I'm not a science or chemistry whiz, that's for sure so I learned some new things here. :)
    Ylem would be a great Scrabble word! One more day Mark!
    Michele at Angels Bark

  3. Ah yes! Greek yogurt makes me happy!

  4. Hi Mark - what a great word 'Ylem' .. I like it .. and that elements video - which I'll be back to listen to properly ..

    Brilliant Y ... and I love the learning possible from the elements video - hence I need to take my time .. cheers Hilary


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