In 1964, two Australian scientistsa coined a new word: petrichor. It describes the warm, earthy fragrance created by rain falling onto dry ground.
Linguistically, petrichor is a bit of an anomaly. Certainly, in the West, European languages lack a specialized vocabulary to express odor qualities—even incredibly common ones.
In English, we don’t really have a word to describe the smell of petrol (gasoline), for example, or freshly cut grass. This is because English speakers predominantly use source-based descriptors to describe scent. We say an object smells like a rose, or like chocolate.
It was this lack of dedicated olfactory language that gave rise to the idea that our brains aren’t wired to be able to put scent into words. Yet, this was a Western myth; in many other cultures, scent and language share a more symbiotic relationship.
For the full article, please check out the Perfumer & Flavorist+ November 2022 issue.