Volume 4, No. 4 
October 2000

Dr. Claff




The World Is Our Oyster
by Gabe Bokor
Index 1997-2000
  Translator Profiles
Experience Counts!
by Eva Eie
  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
  Translation Theory
Equivalence in Translation: Between Myth and Reality
by Vanessa Leonardi
The Sociosemiotic Approach and Translation of Fiction
by Yongfang Hu
Translation and Meaning
by Magdy M. Zaky
Into English—Seven survival tools for translating Brazilian Portuguese into English
by Danilo Nogueira
  Translator Education
Poor Results in Foreign>Native Translation: Reasons and Ways of Avoidance
by Serghei Nikolayev
  Science & Technology
A Translator’s Guide to Organic Chemical Nomenclature XXI
by Chester E. Claff, Jr., Ph.D.
  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Search Engines Revisited
by Gabe Bokor
  Translators’ Tools
Translators’ Emporium
Translators’ Events
Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
Translation Journal


A Translator’s Guide to Organic Chemical Nomenclature

Part XXI

by Chester E. Claff, Jr., Ph. D.

Before resuming our study of a German/French patent, started in Part XX, I would like to mention some terminology that is new to me. A reader of this Series asked for help with the two German terms "Fluchtgruppe" and "Fluchtpunkt" in a document he was translating. Although we both imagined at first that the terms must be associated, and perhaps related to alignment, or perhaps conformation, this turned out not to be the case.

From context faxed to me, it was clear that the "FG" (Fluchtgruppe) was the focal point of a reaction with an arylamine, as follows:

+  ArNH2   →  +  HFG.

FG was also defined as being -Cl, -Br, or p-CH3C6H4SO2- (a p-toluenesulfonyl group). We concluded that FG had nothing to do with alignment, perspective, or vanishing point (which our dictionaries suggested), but rather with "escape." Our ultimate decision was:

Fluchtgruppe = "leaving group."

A more conventional term in German would be "Austrittsgruppe" (in French "groupe partant").

As for Fluchtpunkt, this turned out (we believe) to be entirely unrelated to either "Fluchtgruppe," alignment, or vanishing point. The only available context was:

Fluchtpunkt = 173-175 C.

We believe Fluchtpunkt may have been an incorrect expansion of Fp (Fliesspunkt, melting point), or is intended to imply a "melting range" or "flow point" instead of a distinct melting point. Feedback on our interpretation would be welcome.

EP 0 239 815 B1

Let's return now to our patent from Part XX, in which we discussed thiazoles and oxazoles with the formula

It would be a good exercise to look at the structures permitted by the patent for R5:

R5 eine Hydroxy-, Alkoxy-, Carboxy-, Alkoxycarbonyl-, Aminocarbonyl-, Alkylaminocarbonyl-, oder Dialkylaminocarbonylgruppe, eine Alkoxygruppe mit 1 bis 6 Kohlenstoffatomen, die endständig durch eine Carboxy-, Alkoxycarbonyl-, Aminocarbonyl-, Alkylaminocarbonyl- oder Dialkylaminocarbonylgruppe substituiert ist, eine Alkoxygruppe mit 2 bis 7 Kohlenstoffatomen, die endständig durch eine Hydroxy-, Alkoxy-, Phenylalkoxy-, Amino-, Alkylamino-, Dialkylamino-, Pyrrolidino-, Piperidino- oder Hexamethyleniminogruppe substituiert ist, oder eine gegebenenfalls durch eine Alkylgruppe substituierte Ethenylengruppe, die endständig durch eine Carboxy-, Alkoxycarbonyl-, Aminocarbonyl-, Alkylaminocarbonyl- oder Dialkylaminocarbonylgruppe substituiert ist,

wobei alle vorstehend erwähnten Alkyl-, Alkoxy- oder Alkanoylgruppen, sofern nichts anderes erwähnt wurde, jeweils 1 bis 3 Kohlenstoffatome und die vorstehend erwähnten Alkenylgruppen 3 bis 5 Kohlenstoffatomen enthalten können, bedeutet, deren optische Isomere und deren Diasteromere sowie deren Säureadditionsalze.

The translation of this provision is completely straightforward. Let's review each of these permitted substituents one at a time:

hydroxy  -OH  
alkoxy  -OR  
carboxy  -COOH  
alkoxycarbonyl  -COOR  
aminocarbonyl  -CONH2  
alkylaminocarbonyl  -CONHR  
dialkylaminocarbonyl  -CONR2  
phenylalkoxy  -OCH2CH2C6H5 (an example)  
amino  -NH2  
alkylamino  -NHR  
dialkylamino  -NR2  
pyrrolidino     (preferably called 1-pyrrolidinyl)
piperidino     (preferably called 1-piperidinyl)
ethenylene (group)  -CH=CH- 

To choose one of the very numerous options available for the compound, let's decide that R5 is an alkoxy group with 5 carbon atoms, substituted by a terminal dialkylaminocarbonyl group in which the alkyl group has one carbon atom.

Our compound is now


The product has two optical isomers with (R) and (S) configurations around the chiral center marked with an asterisk. It can form salts with acids at the ring nitrogen and at the nitrogen attached to R4.

Hexamethylenimine, depicted as its radical above, is a common name for azacycloheptane. The term "imine" generally implies a ring nitrogen atom single-bonded to two carbon atoms, or a double-bonded nitrogen as in R2C=NH. The term can also be used loosely as in "iminodiethanol" for diethanolamine HOCH2CH2NHCH2CH2OH. Iminourea is another name for guanidine (NH2)2C=NH.

It's worth pointing out that the patent is published in German, French, and English. The German "Ethenylengruppe," however, has been mistranslated as "ethylene group" in the English version, which is obviously inconsistent. Such errors can lead to patent validity lawsuits and very unpleasant legal situations. Even patent attorneys can be wrong!

As a last exercise from this patent, we will now attempt to explain how a chemical structure can be derived from the formidable chemical name in Claim 5:


First, it's easiest to start with everything that is not within parentheses, namely N-, 2-, and morpholine. The compound is morpholine with substituents on the nitrogen and in the 2-position:

Next consider the substituent on N. To do this, first look at what is inside the square brackets but not in parentheses: 2-, and 1-methylethyl. This will be a 1-methylethyl group with a substituent in the 2-position:

The substituent in the 2-position of 1-methylethyl is 4-carboxymethoxyphenyl:

We now have the N-substituent in its entirety:

The 2-substituent is 2-trifluoromethylthiazol-4-yl:

It remains only to reassemble the morpholine molecule with its two substituents:


The ability to reconstruct a compound's structure from its name may seem to a translator to be an exotic or unnecessary talent, but it leads to a more thorough understanding of the subject matter and inevitably to a better translation. It may surprise those who have followed this Series diligently that they have acquired this ability. All of the steps in this discussion have been discussed in earlier installments. All that is now needed is practice.

Try it!