Maiden near heroine epidemic

Passed on by Michael Palmer, this front page (of the Observer News Enterprise in Newton NC) posted by Michael Weinheimer on the Errorist Movement site:

Michael Pamer commented wryly:

I, for one, welcome an epidemic of heroines: one can never have too many heroines (or heroes, for that matter). I do feel, however, that it is no business of the public’s whether the person celebrating the adopt-a-cop program is a maiden or otherwise

This is not the only news story reporting the spread of heroin use, especially in rural places, as a heroine epidemic (and there’s a good reason for the spelling error). Maiden, however, is a place name.

The geographical settling. The city of Newton, from Wikipedia:

Newton is a city located in Catawba County, North Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 12,968. It is the county seat of Catawba County

Media: The Observer News Enterprise, daily newspaper reporting local news and sports for Newton, Conover and the surrounding communities since 1879.

And the little town of Maiden, again from Wikipedia:

Maiden is a town in Catawba and Lincoln counties in the U.S. state of North Carolina. The population was 3,310 at the 2010 census.

Heroine for Heroin. On the suffix –ine ~ –in, from Michael Quinion’s affixes site:

[French, from the Latin feminine form –ina.]

One group is of abstract nouns: discipline, doctrine, famine, medicine, rapine, routine. Other examples from the same source are concubine and urine. A few are diminutives: figurine.

Many are names of products, often derived from something they are supposed to resemble or imitate (nectarine, a type of peach whose flavour was thought to be like nectar) or from which they derive (caffeine, a compound found especially in tea and coffee, from French café; dentine, the bony tissue forming the bulk of a tooth, from Latin dens, dent-, tooth). The ending has been used with no clear system to name substances (gasoline, margarine, quinine, turpentine), and also appears in the trade names of products (plasticine, vaseline).

In systematic chemical naming, –ine is used for alkaloids and basic substances (aconitine, nicotine, strychnine). It is regarded as distinct from –in, which appears in the names of neutral substances, such as glycerides, glucosides, and colouring matters (albumin, casein, chitin, pepsin). This distinction is not always strictly observed. In some cases, the non-scientific spelling in –ine exists alongside the systematic name in –in (gelatine and gelatin; glycerine and glycerin); however, US usage often prefers the forms in –in. Vitamin, originally vitamine, is so spelled everywhere.

The ending –ine was used to name the halogens (fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, astatine) and this spelling has been preserved; –ine is also used systematically to form the names of certain six-membered monocyclic compounds having a nitrogen atom in the ring, as in azine, the source of a group of dyestuffs.

So: significant variation in spelling. Heroine gets -ine because of its history as a feminine counterpart to hero, while heroin gets -in as a chemical term because it’s a neutral substance, not an alkaloid or basic substance. Still, in American English they are homophones. When unaccented (as in these two cases), the suffix is pronounced /ɪn/; with some level of accent, the pronunciation is /in/ or /ajn/, in a very complex pattern.

An entertaining footnote: heroin and heroine are in fact connected etymologically, in sideways fashion. From NOAD2, on the origin of heroin:

late 19th cent.: from German Heroin, from Latin heros ‘hero’ (because of its effects on the user’s self-esteem)

One Response to “Maiden near heroine epidemic”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Mike Pope on Facebook:

    Screen cap from Alan Parker’s movie “The Commitments” (based on Roddy Doyle’s novel). Throwaway gag from the scene of the band’s first gig at an anti-heroin(e) rally, with the mistaken -E imperfectly whited over.

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