The Grammarphobia Blog

Young Frankenstein

Q: Although this is somewhat outside your bailiwick, it might intrigue you. In the film “Young Frankenstein,” the brain that Igor is originally sent to get (and drops) is that of Max Delbrück. I recently read that a participant in the famous 1932 Copenhagen conference in quantum physics was named Max Delbrück. The question, of course, is whether this is a coincidence?

A: I think you’ve got the wrong Delbrück. In the film, the brain that Igor steals is labeled “HANS DELBRUCK (Scientist & Saint).” Freddy Frankenstein tells Igor that Hans Delbrück was “the finest natural philosopher, internal medicine diagnostician, and chemical therapist of this century.”

In real life, the father of the Nobel Prize winner Max Delbrück was named Hans, but he was a military historian, not a scientist.

I suspect that Mel Brooks, the director of “Young Frankenstein,” or Gene Wilder, who wrote the screenplay, saw or heard the name “Hans Delbrück” somewhere and decided to use it in the film, perhaps because “Delbrück” almost rhymes with Mel Brooks.

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