My View: A new verb is created: to "Frankenstein" – Buffalo News


Every year, new words, and new meanings for old words, are added to the dictionary. Recent additions included shortened words such as “vax” and new verbs such as “gaslight” that previously had been used only as nouns. Next year’s additions may include a contribution from my wife. She has been using the proper noun “Frankenstein” as a verb. For example:
Me: “I’m ready to start on the shelves you wanted in the garage, here’s a sketch.”
Her: “Looks okay. Just don’t Frankenstein them like you did with the basement shelves.”
I have not pressed her for the precise meaning of this new verb, but, given its usual context, a working definition might look like this:
Algorithms played a prominent role in Larry Scott’s career.
“Frankenstein: A process in which a husband cobbles together mismatched junk from the barn to produce a crude object that works but looks nothing like what his wife had in mind.”
The prefix “Franken,” first used to describe GMO tomatoes as Frankenfood, is already in some dictionaries. At the college where I taught, our department created a computer lab by salvaging a variety of old hardware from other labs that were being upgraded. Students immediately dubbed it the Frankenlab. It cost us nothing and proved ideal for two of our courses, but it was never pictured in any of the glossy brochures sent out to prospective students.
This prefix has been applied to many of my home improvement projects. The Frankenfence I erected around the shrubs last fall kept the deer out, but it did not look anything like the vine-covered examples encountered by Peter Rabbit. A picnic table I made three years ago withstood a direct hit from a falling hickory tree, but soon became a Frankentable. It languishes in the barn, gathering dust, waiting to be disassembled so its parts can be used in some future Frankensteining.
My primary criteria for such projects are durability and availability of raw materials. I know how to make shelves sturdy and level. I have no idea how to make them “rustic” or “quaint.” And even if I did figure out how to make quaint shelves, I could never keep up with my wife’s ability to see inner beauty in almost anything. For example, she thinks opossums, especially baby ones, are “adorable.” It would never occur to me that a creature that looks like a prehistoric rat assembled by Tim Burton could or should look adorable.
A few of my finished products, while receiving the usual postmortem list of shortcomings, have been deemed worthy of a name that does not begin with Franken. Our vegetable garden is surrounded by an eight-foot wire and mesh barrier with a heavy creaking gate. Nobody would call it pretty, but I guess it has a forbidding presence appropriate for its function. She christened it “the stalag.”
I used to think the vast differences between my wife’s aesthetic vision and my apparent blindness were hard-wired into our DNA, in the same way that birds can see five colors but dogs only two. But this would mean that men and women are different species, a hypothesis that could explain many other mysteries, if only it were true. And there are signs that, after 40 years of marriage, it is just possible that I am beginning to learn how to avoid the Frankenstein curse.
My two most recent projects, a countertop caddy for measuring spoons and a bin for birdseed, appear to have avoided the Franken prefix.
However, if the verb ever does enter the dictionary, there will still be many items in our barn that could serve as illustrations.
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Algorithms played a prominent role in Larry Scott’s career.
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