"Franken-" meaning genetically modified

Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Mon Jan 8 20:41:53 UTC 2001

Jim Landau <JJJRLandau at aol.com> wrote to me:
I find your argument rather convincing.  Are there other uses of "Franken-"
and if so do they support your argument?

I found myself inspired to do some lazy research, and replied to him as


Let's see. AFAIR, "Frankenfood" is used exclusively for genetically
engineered food. I don't think I can put a finger on any other uses of the
prefix, though I'm sure I've seen them.

So I'll make a Web search with Altavista Advanced search:
     franken* & not (frankenstein or Franken or Frankenmuth or frankenia or
Germany or ".de")
(weeding out a lot of the false positives)
     search in English only

About 10,999 pages found. Hmph! Adding more AND NOTs to take out more false

Stopping "Frankenberry" (name of a breakfast cereal, marketed alongside
Count Chocula) and "Frankenstien" (misspelling) cuts it by several

About 1300 hits for Frankenfood or Frankenfoods. The first of them is at
http://www.acfs.org/mtfnd9901.htm . Here's an explicit one (Institute of
Food Technologists: The Society for Food Science and Technology. Food Laws
and Regulations Division:
       "Worldwide there are several very determined protest groups
organized to voice their objections to the use of GM-derived ingredients in
the general food supply. These groups have adopted the term "Frankenfoods"
to describe genetically modified foods."
     ["GM" =  "genetically modified" -- MAM]

There are a number of dog names, including German place names (von
Such-and-such) but also Frankendog and Frankenbull. Here I think your gloss
'terrifying' is correct.

In Frankenbiker, referring to a weight-training regimen (
http://www.powerbear.com/weights.htm), it seems to mean 'big and muscular'.

Frankenbeans are "Beanie Baby"-type toys of cutely scary critters: spider,
rat, etc., as near as I can judge by the pictures at
http://www.markv.com/frankenbeans.com/ .

All of the other hits are either surnames (Frankenfeld...; of course,
Frankenstein is itself a surname in Shelley's story), German place names or
words, as far as I could tell. I stopped all hits from domains in Germany,
Austria, and Switzerland as well as texts containing the names of those
countries. I have not inspected all of these sites!!! Rather, I have taken
them as guidance for the stoplist. Anyone wishing to check them out is
certainly welcome to do so, as far as I'm concerned; better you than me.

Here is my final search specification, which yielded no hits, meaning that
the exclusions covered all occurrences of "franken*" (i.e., "franken" and
any word beginning with "franken", in any combination of capital and
lowercase) in the search space:

franken* & not (frankenstein |franken |frankenmuth |frankenia |Germany
|".de" |frankenberg |frankenberry |frankenfield | frankenburg |frankenstien
|frankenthal |frankena |frankenbach | frankenfood* |frankenfeld
|frankenjura |frankenforst | frankenwald |frankenheim |Austria* |frankens
|frankenpost | frankenland |frankental |Switzerland |".at" |".ch"
|frankenbiker | frankenmarkt |frankenne |frankenreich |frankenau
|frankenbeans |frankenalb |frankenhalle)
     [search pages in English only]
     [no date limitation]

So we seem to have
 - Frankenfood: genetically modified, potentially dangerous, hubris of
meddling with life
 - Frankenberry: direct reference to the Monster, as a funny-scary
creature, for marketing purposes
 - Frankenbeans: similar to Frankenberry: frightening, monstrous (but
offset by the "beans" and the referent toys themselves)
 - Frankenbiker: big and muscular
 - Frankendog, Frankenbull...: (dog names) strong, dangerous, and scary
(maybe given as a joke)
 . (Misspellings of Frankenstein are as numerous as they are meaningless

   Mark A. Mandel : Dragon Systems, a Lernout & Hauspie company
          Mark_Mandel at dragonsys.com : Senior Linguist
 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02460, USA : http://www.dragonsys.com

More information about the Ads-l mailing list