Poli Museo della Grappa

Poli Grappa Museum

Poli Distillerie

Poli Distillerie

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Alcohol (etymology)

As in some other treasures of human knowledge, also alcohol comes from the arab: Al-Kuhl was a very thin dust carefully depurated to treat eyes, like an eyewash or for cosmetic reasons. Then the word referred to a pure substance, or an essence of something very pure aimed at becoming spirit. It’s indeed by this last meaning that al-kuhl moved in European languages as in many other cases with assimilated words thanks to different cultural and scientific exchanges with arabs (algebra = number; alchemy = chemistry: they have got the same etymology, so they correspond to the same word) the substantive is blended with its article. Alcohol and spirit are indeed interchangeable terms: their semantic content places over with accuracy. It seems that, nowadays, the same destiny will involve the spirit, in occasion of jokes, mediumistic seats or philosophical and religious debates. Spiritus for Latins was the whiff, the breath: then it became the lighter and more noble part of things (like the soul, for example). The features of alcohol, with its steam trend, are perfectly linked to another acception of the Latin word. “Alcoholic drinks” is the favourite definition instead of many other terms a little overcome nowadays from the current language. But the word alcohol knew a resistance in the Italian language. Some time ago a linguist supported the opportunity to make it in Italian as “alcole” (plural: alcoli); but the current language (lingua fit in ore vulgi) did not put up the suggestion excluded for the plural “alcoli”, that previously existed for the expert. However, “alcole” is still used for chemistry texts and specialized magazines.