For some reason I have an open, barely used box of Javex2 (“Bleach for Unbleachables”) sitting with the other toxic household chemicals. I vaguely recall needing it a few years ago to get something clean. I guess a bit of lemon juice wouldn’t do for whatever it was.
The origin of the name Javex is pretty clear if you turn to the French side of the box (if you’re not from Canada, that may not make sense until I tell you that all packaging in Canada is in English and French, and boxes usually have an English side and a French side). There it says “Javellisant pour non-Javellisables.” French for ‘bleach’ is javellisant, or eau de Javel, or just plain old javel.
Javel! Isn’t that the villain from Les Misérables? No, no it is not, and how dare you fling mud at this fine word.
Well, you wouldn’t be the only one to fling mud at it or besmirch its character. You see, there is an English word javel that is not related to the French javel and it is not sparkling clean. Continue reading