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When you think of the word aerosol you probably think of old-style deodorants. That is to say, you think of it unless you are too young to have been around when aerosol deodorants were the primary means of keeping your pit stench down to a socially acceptable level. (Forget about antiperspirants. We weren’t afraid to sweat, mainly because we didn’t have much choice. Although why we didn’t wear exclusively yellow shirts so the underarm stains wouldn’t show is beyond me.)

That is, or rather was, one use of aerosols. But that’s not the only definition of the word.

For one, an aerosol is a suspension of particles that is distributed throughout a gas. This is useful when, well, I don’t know when it’s useful, but I’m sure it is. At least, I think it is. Well, maybe it is. But I don’t really know. Don’t ask me. Ask a chemist. Would a chemist be sitting here writing this crap? No he or she would not.

An aerosol is also a substance, probably small particles, that is shoved into a container, typically a medal can. It is stored there under pressure so it can be released as a fine spray, such as, yes, old-style deodorants, as well as, among other things, foot spray, or spray-on cooking oil for coating pans. Hopefully the same substance isn’t used for all three purposes because that would be gross.

The New Penguin English Dictionary (1986) says that aerosol can also be used as a verb, meaning spray-painted from an aerosol can. The example the dictionary gives is, “a slogan aerosolled [which the spell checker on my Mac says is not a word] on a wall.” Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that graffiti? If so, why don’t they just say so?

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