Why do they call them Saltines?

My lovely and curious wife asked, “Why do they call them Saltines, instead of just “Salted Crackers.”  My initial impulse was to say that it was a brand name, but no the brand name would be Nabisco… and in fact the saltines that she was looking at were generic “Wendy’s” crackers.  So then asked “what else ends in -ine?”

  • Saltine
  • Pristine
  • Machine
  • Latrine
  • Wine
  • Twine
  • Pine
  • Line
  • Dine
  • Fine
  • Brine
  • Nine
  • Sine
  • Cosine
  • Spine
  • Shine
  • Stein
  • Visine
  • Vaseline
  • Valvoline
  • Maybeline
  • Quarantine
  • Marine
  • Magazine
  • Ravine
  • Adrenaline
  • Amphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • Dopamine
  • Thorazine
  • Flourine
  • Iodine
  • Supine
  • Serpentine
  • Lupine
  • Porcine
  • Swine
  • Bovine
  • Ursine
  • Canine
  • Feline
  • Piceine
  • Recline
  • Decline
  • Incline
  • Refine
  • Praline
  • Thiotimoline

Pristine and machine came pretty quick and then we were stuck for a while and gave up.  An hour later my clever wife said “Wine” which led to a quick series of single syllable words which didn’t seem to bring us closer to solving the mystery at hand, but you never know which parts of brainstorming will lead to something fruitful.  If you did it wouldn’t be brainstorming it would just be thinking about something.

The main grammatic thrust of the suffix is either as a chemical ending, or for adjectiving an animal name (especially with the latin root).  Adjectiving an animal name is such a specific niche, but you don’t say purpline, and though you could get away with serpentish serpentine is definitely cooler.

The words that seemed to feel most close to Saltine were Vasoline, Visine, Praline.

My favorites were machine, marine, and magazine.

Now on to actual research:

Magazine came from the arabic makhzan (storehouse) and khazana (to store up).  The term was used in the military for an ammunitions depot and is now obsolete and is still in use in reference to a “clip” in an (semi)automatic weapon.  The term magazine for a periodical came from the first one, “Gentleman’s Magazine,” in 1731.  It borrowed it’s use from the inventory sheet of the weapons depot.

Mare is latin for sea, and machina is latin for device (though stolen from the greek maghana which derives from the word for power.  So both of these are following the Ursine rule.

Incline recline decline all come from klei (to lean)

Quarantine comes from the Italian (latin) for 40 and the medical definition derrives from the 40 days that ships suspected of carrying plague had to stay anchored in harbor before they would be allowed to dock in Venice.

Dopamine is named for a specific amino acid involved in the pleasure center in the brain.

Let me take this chance to tell everyone that etymonline is awesome.

According to Wikipedia, Saltine actually was a brand name back in 1876, which belonged to a company that eventually became merged with Nabisco in 1898.  The use of the word Saltine became too broad to refer to any “soda cracker” and they lost trademark control in 1907.  Which makes me realize how old somethings are.


One thought on “Why do they call them Saltines?

  1. The company was Premium. Nabisco purchased them for the rights to what would be the wonder side order for soup or cheese. Amazing how people and the way we eat evolved the way it did. First part of the century of 1900 late 1800 we changed like people change cell phones today. We wanted a cool refreshing drink, we added carbonation, and bottled the cap. We wanted food do go so we invented lunch meat and bread slices, we wanted hot food then came meat with a bun and so on and so on. Shad how it got its name is strange. I am leaning with a gimmick, unlike others that won a prize along the way. Poly want a cracker is better than Poly want a soda cracker, that he could not eat. So it had to have showman ship. Some other with strange names: A-1 Steak Sauce, pronounced A1 at the King of England, George, produced it A1 during one of his new born kings event. Gold Medal Flour:After sweeping gold, silver and bronze medals in the first International Millers’ Exhibition in 1880, the Gold Medal brand was born. And so on comes the names that make no sense. But we have accepted them to be flour. My mom, George, go to the store and get me some Saltines, and A1 Steak Sauce, and yes, on bag of Gold Medal Flour. And off I went. Thank you for letting me share, my head feels like things of non importance has no moved on.

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