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calendar   Wednesday - July 29, 2009

Something for Nothing

There are at least one million words in the English language. No matter what you’ve got, English has a word for it. English also has words for things you don’t have, and this is one of them.



No, sorry, no Marina video on this, even though intelligence is sexy.

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Marina is Hot For Words



So the something for nothing word today is ullage.

Pronounced “ull - lage”, not “you-lage”, ullage is the space left over in a container when it’s partially filled. This Norman era word is derived from the latin word for eye, oculus, through the medieval French verb ouiller, which means to fill up a barrel ... because the Romans called the bung hole in a barrel it’s eye, and thus you could eye the contents to see how much more could fit in. The concept was extended to mean the level of wine in a bottle. Ullage is still used this way for describing old wine up for auction, as the level in the bottle decreases with age. Connoisseurs know that too much ullage means an old wine has gone bad. From barrels and bottles ullage grew to mean any open space in any container, and is the appropriate term to use when talking about how much the bunkers are down in a ship’s fuel tanks. [ odd - I had always thought that bunkerage was a noun that meant the fuel storage capacity on a ship. But looking it up shows me that it’s a noun for the act of filling the bunkers. Isn’t something that’s an act actually a verb?

It also applies to the fuel tanks in rocket engines, where ullage can have deadly consequences if not accounted for. The 2nd and 3rd stages of the Saturn V rocket had ullage motors, which would fire off just a little before igniting the main engine while in orbit. In zero gravity, the open space isn’t always on top. Actually, in zero gravity there is no top, no up, no down. A little bit of thrust sloshes the liquid fuel back against the intake pipes, so the rocket engine gets the proper fuel and ignites. No ullage motoring, and the intake pipe could just be passing vapor, which could allow the rocket flame to leap back up into the tank. BOOM. Not a good thing.

It’s probably a waste of time to use ullage to complain about things at McDonald’s. “I want another order of fries. This one has excessive ullage!” Pearls before swine and all that.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 07/29/2009 at 06:57 PM   
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