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Mike Powell, "The Unfairly Maligned Coca Leaf", Bolivia for 91 Days, 5/24/2011:

Consider a distinctly US American product. Let's say hot dogs: invented in 1870 on Coney Island and enjoyed in our great nation ever since. But in 2015, Korean scientists learn how to distill the noble hot dog into a lethal drug. Hotdogaine. International hot dog trafficking becomes a lucrative business and, over decades, people across Asia become addicted to hotdogaine, even while aw-shucks, overall-wearin' Americans continue to enjoy the hot dog in its "natural" form.

You see where I'm going with this? In 2030, the world's sole superpower (China) pushes a hot dog ban through the UN. As part of its war on hotdogaine, it supplies the US Government with planes to fire bomb hot dog factories. A quintessential part of American life has come under attack; do you think we'd be pissed off?

The "alkaloid of" morpheme in cocaine is actually -ine. According to the OED:

At first used unsystematically in forming names of extractive principles and chemical derivatives of various kinds; also, in the English names given early in the 19th century to the four elements chlorine, fluorine, iodine, bromine (in French chlore, fluor, iode, brome). In all these, but especially in the names of extractive principles, the ending –ine was by some reduced to -in, thus gelatine or gelatin, aconitine or aconitin, chlorine or chlorin. In recent systematic nomenclature the two forms have been differentiated, -ine being now used (1) in forming names of alkaloids and basic substances, as aconitine, cocaïne, nicotine, strychnine, etc., which are thus distinguished from names of neutral substances, proteids, etc., in -in (see -in suffix1); and (2) in Hofmann's systematic names of hydrocarbons of the form CnH2n—2, as ethine or acetylene, C2H2, propine or allylene, C3H4, etc. These latter are not much used. In the names of the elements, and some other substances, not belonging to any of the classes named, -ine is retained (though chlorin, fluorin, etc., appear in some American books).

But it's common in English to re-analyze word endings for analogical spread as suffixes, sometimes combining part of the stem with a suffix, and sometimes just stripping off a syllable or two willy-nilly: -(a)thon, -(o)rama, -(o)holic, -burger.

This one, hotdogaine, is a bit less transparent, but it's clear enough in context. And it's certainly clearer in context than the morphologically more correct hotdogine would have been.


  1. GeorgeW said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 7:43 pm

    Then there is the gerund/participle 'hotdoging' which can be shortened to 'hotdogin.'

  2. Brett said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    From "cocaine" we also have the suffix "-caine," which denotes a local anesthetic (e.g. lidocaine, articaine, and prilocaine, the last one known under the trade name "novacain").

  3. Roger Lustig said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

    I'm offended by this whole discussion. My mother–my own *mother*–was addicted to morphemes. They gave her great comfort toward the end of her life. Who are you to judge?

    (See Dilbert cartoon referenced in previous post before commenting, please.)

  4. Dylan said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    I was going to chime in about the '-caine' suffix, but Brett beat me to it. It should be added that this suffix is at least a hundred years old at this point.

    This 'hotdogaine' is probably also influenced by 'ibogaine', the alkaloid from the iboga plant. Given that it is pronounced in a similar fashion to 'cocaine', except with the velar plosive being voiced, and given its status as a drug which many people advocate the theraputic benefits of and whose status these people see as illegal for no good reason (the author likely being one of these people), the '-aine' suffix looks like a perfect (rhetorical) fit.

  5. Erica Pannen said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    But it's common in English to re-analyze word endings for analogical spread as suffixes, sometimes combining part of the stem with a suffix, and sometimes just stripping off a syllable or two willy-nilly: -(a)thon, -(o)rama, -(o)holic, -burger.

    I'm reminded of when Homer Simpson somehow became industrious and lamented that he was addicted to workahol.

  6. Anthony said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

    There's a precedent for using "aine" as the suffix: Rogaine, which is "rug" + "aine", since it has the same effect as wearing a toupee.

  7. Matt McIrvin said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

    "Rogaine" also has "gain" in it, suggesting that you'll gain hair.

  8. Rod Johnson said,

    June 3, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

    I remember a few years back a couple entrepreneurs were selling gasohol made from wine, which they called… "wineohol." I wondered if "-ohol" was being reanalyzed as meaning "fuel made from," but no sign of it since.

  9. Robert said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 2:48 am

    The OED quote seems to be out of date. Propane, propene, propyne, and propanone all exist, but no propine. The nearest is 1-propanamine, which as -amine as the suffix, which does incorporate the original -ine sufix. In fact, avoiding a clash between -ine and -amine may be the reason for using -ene instead.

    Incidentally, the current rules for organic chemical nomenclature approximate standard English word formation, but they weren't written by linguists. I've quitre often wondered what actual linguists would make of them.

  10. Peter Taylor said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 3:30 am

    It's also quite frequent to misspell iocane, the undetectable poison from The Princess Bride, as iocaine.

  11. Ian Preston said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 4:23 am

    The reanalysis would presumably have been less attractive if the -ine suffix had remained phonetically distinct. Was there ever a time when cocaine had three syllables in English /ˈkəʊkə.iːn/ before people started to use the /eɪ/ diphthong at the end or has it always been pronounced this way? Albert Niemann was German and I take it that Kokain is still pronounced with three syllables.

    [(myl) The OED passage that I quoted in the body of the post spells it "cocaïne", where the trema presumably is meant to indicate hiatus. The whole note probably dates to the original publication of the OED fascicle in question, which I suppose must have been circa 1890-1900.

    This usage was not universal at the time — The Sign of Four, in this 1890 edition, has simply "cocaine" throughout. Similarly, an 1886 work The Use of The Use of Cocaine in Ophthalmic and General Surgery does not use the trema.

    So apparently the OED's usage was a vain attempt to preserve the etymological pronunciation against the pressures of re-analysis.]

  12. Derry said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 4:29 am

    In the OED quote it's cocaïne, so I think it must have been.

    Me, I saw the portmanteau and thought of poutaine, so I have gained from this post by learning it's spelt poutine.

  13. Rubrick said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 4:41 am

    During the '80s and '90s cinema suffered from a sever overdose of michaelcaine.

  14. [links] Link salad goes to JayCon today | said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 7:53 am

    […] Hotdogaine — Funny, weird language neepery from Language Log. […]

  15. Sili said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 7:55 am

    During the '80s and '90s cinema suffered from a sever overdose of michaelcaine.

    Don't be ridiculous. You can't overdose on michaelcaine any more than you can on cannabis.

    Seanconnerine on the other hand …

  16. Nathan said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 8:32 am

    I remember that Paul Harvey used to pronunce protein with three syllables: /ˈproti.ɪn/.

  17. Robert said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

    @Erica Pannen

    Unless they reused a joke, it was rageahol, not workahol, in the episode "I am Furious (Yellow)".

  18. Emily said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    Am I the only person who initially parsed "Hotdogaine" as a portmanteau of "hotdog" plus "Rogaine", despite the context?

  19. Xmun said,

    June 4, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

    According to the OED's "Historical Introduction", the fascicle Cloaca-Consigner was originally published in October 1891.

  20. Brett said,

    June 5, 2011 @ 1:36 am

    @Emily: No, I too thought of "hotdog" plus "Rogaine," at the very first reading.

  21. JHH said,

    June 5, 2011 @ 10:08 am

    @myl: The two-little-dot diacritical mark that I would have called an "umlaut" is called a trema? But… I can't find "trema" in MerriamWebster Unabridged, and can't find it in OED. Is this just a poorly documented bit of linguist jargon? Thanks :)

  22. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    June 5, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

    JHH: In this context (i.e. where it is being used to separate syllables, rather than to modify a vowel sound) I would call it a diairesis. I, too, have never heard 'trema'.

  23. Robert said,

    June 6, 2011 @ 1:25 am

    trema is in the Chambers English dictionary: 'an orifice, a diaeresis, … [Gr. trema, -atos, a hole]'

    The connection between holes and diaeresis is far from obvious. Presumably, there were intermediate stages. The other words derived from the same root all refer to a category of parasitic worms, the trematodes, which seems likely to suffer from false etymology too. At first glance, most people would probably draw a connection with nematodes, and assume the prefix is tre-

  24. Robert said,

    June 6, 2011 @ 3:59 am

    On second thoughts, trema as daieresis will come from indicating a gap between two consecutive vowels. 'Hole' is not normally a word I'd apply to anything 1-dimensional, the quintessential hole is cut into a 2-d surface, but it fits well enough.

  25. Bob Violence said,

    June 6, 2011 @ 4:29 am

    Here's an LL article from November on another re-analyzed suffix (-inator, from "terminator"). My personal favorite re-analyzed morphemes are heli- (as in "helipad," "heliport," "heliskiing") and -copter ("gyrocopter") — both from "helicopter," which is actually helico- plus -pter.

  26. Ben Hemmens said,

    June 6, 2011 @ 6:25 am

    as ethine or acetylene, C2H2, propine or allylene, C3H4, etc.

    Indeed, must be long out of date. I suppose these forms must have existed if the OED cites them, but I've never heard of them. In my schooldays (around 1980), the official nomenclature of alkanes, alkenes and alkynes (e.g. ethane, ethene, ethyne) was being taught. Particularly in the latter case, the name ethyne was systematically better than acetylene since the acet- part was used equally for it (a hydrocarbon with a triple bond) and acetic acid (with its carboxylic group; which was called ethanoic acid). But people who actually worked with these compounds hadn't ever had a problem with the old names, and the new system never caught on in everyday usage. The reality is that in organic chemistry you get to know the simpler compounds intimately, so they don't need systematic names. The more complex ones I believe most people remember by their structure rather than the name. And deriving the correct IUPAC name I'm sure is a tedious chore for the majority of organic chemists.

    But back to the -in or -ine suffix: these are in use not only in smallish-molecule-chemistry but right through the spectrum of biochemistry. E.g. there are most of the naturally occurring amino acids, penicillin ( natural small molecules) and benzodiazepines (a class of small molecule drugs); the biggish (for organic chemists) or smallish (for biochemists) peptide insulin, the smallish proteins myo- and hemoglobin, up to the big proteins actin, myosin etc.

    All that these endings suggest to me is in the case of small molecules that they contain one or more nitrogen atoms and in the case of proteins that they have no (known) enzymatic activity (if they did they would end in -ase).

  27. Ben Hemmens said,

    June 6, 2011 @ 6:35 am

    … Kokain is still pronounced with three syllables …

    Yes it is, though it's even more often pronounced [ʃneː] ;-)

  28. sam said,

    June 6, 2011 @ 8:48 am

    I've found '-tini' as a free-ranging suffix in many less-respectable (partly because of this very habit) restaurants and bars. "Pomegranate Squeeze Tini" (found at Four Brothers in northern Westchester county, NY) is a particularly grievous example.

  29. Ben Hemmens said,

    June 6, 2011 @ 9:12 am

    My pet hate among scientific affix recombinations is the word isoform used for differing versions of a protein.

    It seems to have come from isozyme, which is a perfectly reasonable term for versions of an enzyme which differ in some way (iso-zyme = "same enzyme" = catalyze the same reaction). Of course you can't use isozyme for something that isn't an enzyme. But the choice of -form as a substitute for -zyme just drives me crazy because the whole point is that the things do NOT have the same ("iso-") form. In fact it would be much more reasonable to call the damn things alloforms than isoforms (allo- and iso- being otherwise pretty freely usable prefixes throughout biochemistry).

    Why one needs anything more than the simple "variant" (as a possibly more inclusive term than mutant) I don't know. Despite knowing that the battle against isoforms is lost and it is therefore prescriptivist of me, I confess I still try to cut down its use in manuscripts I edit.

  30. Nathan Myers said,

    June 7, 2011 @ 1:36 am

    Ben: There's nothing wrong with prescriptivism if you're honest about it. Just don't pretend that an authority agrees with you. Prof. Pullum is on record abhorring misused "comprise", despite knowing its history, and I agree with him. That doesn't stop me from excoriating Grammar Nannies who insist the misuse is formally wrong.

    As a descriptivist with strong opinions about style, you have license to excoriate a larger population than the prescriptivists may, because your field of fire include theirs, and them as well.

  31. Ben Hemmens said,

    June 7, 2011 @ 9:16 am

    »There's nothing wrong with prescriptivism if you're honest about it.«


  32. John Cowan said,

    June 8, 2011 @ 6:03 pm

    Wikipedia says that tremata in Byzantine Greek are the spots on dice, so trema for ¨ probably refers to its shape, whether it represents diaeresis, umlaut, centralization (as in IPA) or something else.

  33. Nathan McCoy said,

    June 9, 2011 @ 3:41 am

    I recall being utterly awestruck, about a year ago, when I suddenly realized that 'helicopter' is in fact 'helico-pter'. (In the Magic: the Gathering game, the classic Ornithopter card has spawned an entire family of 'thopters' in an exactly analogous fashion, amusingly enough.)

    I had a similar epiphany which caused me much excitement and my friends much bemusement when I noticed that 'predict' and 'foretell' mean the same thing! (Yes, I patiently explained, I know what synonyms are; I mean, they're the same if you break them down component-wise, too.)

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