Breast implants


I thought that would get your attention!

The substance that these controversial objects are made from is causing some confusion. There are two separate materials: silicon and silicone.

Silicon is a non-metallic element, symbolised by Si, used for its properties as a semi-conductor in electronic circuits, and therefore in the insides of whatever device you are reading this on. It is a gritty sort of material. Its pronunciation is /ˈsɪlɪkən/ with a neutral schwa in the final syllable.

Silicone is a polymer: a material composed of long chains of alternate silicon and oxygen atoms, which is generally inert (i.e. it doesn’t react easily with anything). This makes it suitable for use in medical applications. In its gel form it is used in such things as breast implants. The pronunciation is /ˈsɪlɪkəʊn/ – note that the final syllable has the GOAT vowel.

Many commentators on BBC Radio today have been talking about the present situation, and discussing whether women who have had /ˈsɪlɪkən/ implants should have them removed. If any woman has really had a/ˈsɪlɪkən/ implant, I should think she has a very good case to sue for serious medical malpractice.


  1. I suppose anyone with silicon implants would have to wear a wired bra.

  2. I think that most people don’t make any difference between these two words .

  3. Svetlin – I think you’re probably right, but broadcasters who are supposedly informing rather than simply entertaining should at least make an effort to distinguish, in order not to worry listeners and viewers needlessly. [Note the lack of a comma before “who” – I exclude broadcasters who are merely entertaining.]
    I hope that chemists would agree with me.

  4. That makes a change from hearing about “silicone chips”.

  5. Having regard to this subject
    I dont suppose you shd have any difficulty in replying to my riddle
    “Why is a calzone different from a flat pizza?
    Answer: Becoz it’s had an implant.

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