Plastics or Polymers?

I’ve just read an article on the BBC website as part of their “vocabularist” column on the origin and development of different words:

BBC – The Vocabularist: When plastics stopped being plastic

It deals with the interesting evolution of the the word “plastic” and how, even though the first plastics were invented in the middle 1800s, it wasn’t until the 1950s that the simple term plastic was used to describe the material class.

While the article does a good job of outlining the difference between the two (very different in some cases) senses of plastics as important to materials science – that of the hydrocarbon based materials, and the sense of deformability, it wasn’t until after I read it and was thinking back that I realised they’d managed to go through the whole description without saying what plastics really are called – polymers!

What do you think?



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