I once wrote a little poem for the elements of the periodic table. I wrote it, hoping to use it with non-native English-speaking professors who needed practice with scientific or academic English. I never found a suitable audience to try this on, though, so I might as well put it out here. This was inspired by Tom Lehrer’s song, ‘The Elements,’ and if sung, should be sung to his melody (actually, I know nothing about music, but his tune seems apropos). Unlike his song, this poem arranges them in order of the periodic table. Feel free to use this for scientists to practice their chemistry pronunciation, or for just geeky fun. A more entertaining song of the elements in correct order is available here.
For academic English teachers, songs or poems like this would be useful for English stress patterns and consonant assimilation (blending) patterns. I recently revised this a bit after two of the newer elements were given permanent names.
Periodic elements poem / song
There are 118 elements in the periodic chart – we’ll see if we can tell them apart.
We’ll sing this song to help you remember, maybe you’ll get them down by next December.
Well, there’s hydrogen, helium, lithium, and beryllium,
boron, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen,
Nasty old fluorine and pretty neon, and sodium, which in Latin is called natrium.
There’s magnesium and aluminum, which the Brits call aluminium,
silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, and argon,
And potassium, which in Latin is called kalium.
There’s calcium, scandium, titanium, vanadium and chromium and manganese
And we have the magnetic elements of iron (or ferrum in Latin), and cobalt and nickel.
We have copper and zinc and gallium and germanium
and arsenic, which can make you quite sick
and selenium, bromine, krypton, rubidium and strontium,
and yttrium, zirconium, niobium, molybdenum and technetium,
ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver and cadmium,
and indium, tin, ántimony, tellurium, iodine and xenon.
And after cesium and barium we have the lanthanide or rare earth series:
lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium and promethium;
Our friend samarium makes our speaker magnets, and the rest are a bit humdrum –
europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, and holmium
erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium – that concludes the lanthanides.
And through the rest we continue our ride,
With hafnium, tantalum, tungsten, rhenium and osmium and iridium;
Our friends platinum, gold, and mercury;
Then thallium, lead, bismuth, and polonium
and astatine, radon, francium, and radium
Next we have the actinides, they’re pretty exotic, radioactive, or quixotic –
There’s actinium, thorium, protactinium, and uranium,
neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium,
berkelium, californium, einsteinium and fermium,
mendelevium, nobelium, lawrencium and rutherfordium,
dubnium, seaborgium, bohrium, and hassium,
meitnerium, darmstadtium, roentgenium, and copernicium.
How about a couple more? They’ve added flerovium and livermorium.
Had a mouthful? There’s more, with longer names in store
Newly synthesized ones with names provisional, made by means quite collisional –
ununtrium and ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium.
That’s what we have so far, 118 elements that we’ve made or discovered.
Check back later, more will be added or uncovered.
Maybe they’ll find unobtainium, or an island of stability
But for now I think 118 are plenty for you and me.
(Kent Lee, Oct. 2013)