Off topic: Is the "zinc" in a French bar made of zinc?
Thread poster: cranium

cranium
French to English
+ ...
May 1

Not really a terminology question, just one of those fun cultural head-scratchers. I saw a play on words between zinc the mineral and zinc the traditional bar countertop in France. I find conflicting info. Some sources say they never were made of zinc at all (rather tin and lead), while others state that traditionally there was zinc in zincs. I do find modern kitchen installers that sell zinc countertops. Any thoughts?

 

Tony M  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:00
Member
French to English
+ ...
Zinc Zinc May 1

Many that I know of are actually clad in copper; but zinc is certainly used for some... it is commonly used for roofing (flashings, etc.) where in the UK we have traditionally used lead. It seems (if thick enough) to be quite robust; in the last hotel we owned, there was even an old sink apparently made from cast zinc!!

I'm not sure they would have used lead + tin — apart from the toxic nature of lead (which they didn't seem to know or care much about back in the 19th c.!), I don't think it would necessarily be durable enough; though note that a tin/lead alloy, besides being type metal, is also used for organ pipes.

So certainly some of them were genuinely zinc, if not necessarily all; the fact lead is not usually used on roofs here might suggest it was an expensive commodity? Note that in the UK (particularly Cornwall) we have both tin and lead mines; i'd be interested to know if there is an equivalent region in France; so far, I don't happen to have heard about it, though in Limousin where I live, there have been uranium, arsenic, antimony, and other mines — as well as GOLD mines! The cottage I live in was actually part of a gold mine!


 

cranium
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks... May 1

...and if you find your back yard dug up, it's not meicon_smile.gif

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:00
Member (2008)
Italian to English
probably May 1

cranium wrote:

Not really a terminology question, just one of those fun cultural head-scratchers. I saw a play on words between zinc the mineral and zinc the traditional bar countertop in France. I find conflicting info. Some sources say they never were made of zinc at all (rather tin and lead), while others state that traditionally there was zinc in zincs. I do find modern kitchen installers that sell zinc countertops. Any thoughts?


It's probably galvanised steel.

Or as Wikipedia has it "Galvanisation or galvanising is the process of applying a protective zinc coating to steel or iron, to prevent rusting. The most common method is hot-dip galvanising, in which parts are submerged in a bath of molten zinc".

Galvanised steel sheet, in Italian, is "lamiera zincata". I have actually translated technical documents that describe hot-dip galvanising machinery - so I know ALL ABOUT IT icon_smile.gif

[Edited at 2018-05-01 13:33 GMT]


 

Andrzej Mierzejewski  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 13:00
Polish to English
+ ...
galvanised steel or pure zinc May 1

AFAIK two options were probable: galvanised (= zinc-plated) steel, and pure (or rather: as pure as possible) zinc sheet metal. All depended on prices of metals and technologies available at the time the countertop was made.

Apart of that, I have a question regarding materials for bar countertops. French word for tin is étain, so if some sources say that countertops in France were made of tin and lead, why were they called 'zinc'? This doesn't seem logical. Could anybody explain?

Just a question: could the tin and lead alloy be - so to say - 'a budget-conscious replacement' for the real zinc-plated sheet steel - in the times (I assume: from approx. 1850 till approx. World War 1) that ordinary people (not scientists or engineers) had no chance to know the difference between:
EN zinc/FR zinc/DE Zink/PL cynk
and
EN tin/FR étain/DE Zinn/PL cyna?

I don't know and will be grateful for a reply.

Still, I'm of opinion that the choice is a matter of price and availability at the time.


[Zmieniono 2018-05-02 10:26 GMT]


 

cranium
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting stuff May 2

Thanks for that, interesting about the Italian term, it really sheds light on the French term, IMO.

 

Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 13:00
English to Russian
+ ...
Certainly not pure zinc May 2

AFAIK two options were probable: galvanised (= zinc-plated) steel, and pure (or rather: as pure as possible) zinc sheet metal.


It's zinc-plated steel that's colloquially called 'zinc' by metonymy (not only in French, it's the same in Russian). Pure zinc makes no sense in this application from the technological point of view - it brings no extra corrosion resistance compared to galvanised steel, it is quite expensive, it is brittle, and it does not look as good as other fancier metals such as copper. Just about the only uses of pure zinc sheets are for etching in printmaking and for anodes in electrolytic zinc plating.

As to the actual material on bar countertops, zinc-plated steel is the cheapest corrosion-resistant sheet metal available (a lot cheaper than copper, stainless steel, etc.), and it was probably quite popular for this purpose in less prosperous times and regions, whence it must have percolated into the common usage.


 


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