NaCl (Sodium Chloride)


A genuinely curious item of which Jon Says, “I grew up listening to the McGarrigles, I absolutely love the sound of their voices, particularly when singing in French. This is a fun little song. Useful for science GCSE exams too as I recall.” Sadly of course Kate died early this year and I suspect it might be her scientific bent behind this, as she studied engineering while Anna painted. I have a copy of The McGarrigle Hour at home that I haven’t listened to in years, but recall being utterly smitten by it, so will have to dig it out (thanks for the nudge Jon.) Call me an anthropomorphic, old softy, but I love the way this turns scientific rationalism on its head (we know how but will we ever really know why) as a metaphor for human relationships.

You can buy the September digital album now from all good download stores:


14 Responses to “NaCl (Sodium Chloride)”

  1. Jane Ramsden says:

    I like the quirkiness of the words and ideas – ‘bride’ ‘chlorine to chloride’ – but not the tune. It is one of those tunes that isn’t really a tune to me, so I am very impressed that you can remember it to sing, Jon! I don’t think I could get it to ‘stick’ for more than one occasion, and then I’d probably lose the plot! Very well done.

    “we know how, but will we ever really know why?”…. Elementary, my dear Watson. It’s just chemistry! We wouldn’t be around long without it! Now if you’re asking ‘Why are we here and what’s that all about, Alfie?’ perhaps we are back to The Lord Will Provide for an answer. If there isn’t an answer, maybe there isn’t a ‘why’ question. This song can get you thinking!

  2. Johanna says:

    Since songs about chemistry and songs by Tom Lehrer are both on the table, is there any chance that we’ll be treated to Jon’s interpretation of The Element Song?

  3. Kasper Loopstra says:

    As this popped up in the reader feed yesterday before the post on the site, I had to give it a listen or two before I was sure I got the subject matter right. I only caught on halfway through the first time I heard. Great song though, and definitely on to remember for the next person who doesn’t redox reactions. Might be could to get some more chemists in contact with the folk world as well.

    As for the element song, even though I love Tom Lehrer’s songs and I’m a chemistry student, to me that is one of his worse songs…

  4. Alison McKee says:

    Yes, re Tom Lehrer and The Elements — I was just going to say the same thing! I could never handle Chemistry or anything scientific but always knew the song when at school and can still sing it 45 years later, although I think new elements have been discovered since then.

    Give it a go Jon!!

  5. LadyD says:

    @ Alison The elements song sooo gets stuck in your head.

  6. Anna says:

    What a little gem, I love this one! It appeals to my geeky side!

  7. Matthew Edwards says:

    A not quite accurate copy of the lyrics appears in the Digital Tradition database on Mudcat; Sodium Chloride.

    A lovely song, but I think the McGarrigle family could sing the telephone directory, and still make it sound beautiful and original! They just love to sing anything and everything, and do it with such an infectious enthusiasm.

    My favourite chemistry rhyme went something like this;-

    Little Billy took a drink,
    Alas! Billy is no more:
    For what he thought was H2O,
    Was H2SO4.

    Sadly that is all that remains from my Chemistry O-Level 1969!


  8. Peter Walsh says:

    If anyone wants to hear Kate and Anna’s version, Spotify has the album The McGarrigle Hour available to hear, which has 20 other tunes to enjoy too!

  9. There as some “trades” that lend themselves to being used in folk songs – but chemists must be a long way down the table (with the trans-uranics) – though magicians and blacksmiths, our predecessors, are near the top. Even a chemist like me would start to get uncomfortable at imposing more than a couple of verses on NaCl on a singaround audience.
    Thankfully there are lots of good songs this month so my comment is unlikely to elevate this ditty to the threshold for top 5 for voting!!

  10. Jonathan says:

    Love this, I’m a Chemistry teacher and it is going into a lesson soon!! Another Chemistry song which is good fun is Flanders and Swann on Entropy.

  11. Diana says:

    What a strange little song but clever for all that. Just wished there was a bit more tune to it.

  12. Linda says:

    Super night last night at Buxton. Thanks to Jon n John.

  13. Emily says:

    A little late to the scene with this comment but I can’t leave it unsaid: electrons are negatively charged so it’s the chlorine that has the “extra energy” that will find a home with sodium.

    If you want to be extra pedantic the sodium doesn’t change the chlorine to chloride, it’s already called chloride as it’s in its negative ion form.

    I love Jon’s work, especially this project but as a chemistry PhD student I cringe a little every time I listen to this, sorry!

  14. OldMuzza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Ref Emily’s comment above…..I do hope that progressive chemi teachers that use the song as a teaching aid, are savvy enough to realise the subtle errors…..otherwise we could have a few generations of misled chemists…perhaps with disasterous results!

Your Reply

Warning: Undefined variable $user_ID in /customers/a/0/f/ on line 121