Josh was cleaning the stand mixer before making a pizza crust. The mixer is an old KitchenAid that I bought for $30 at a yard sale. Its name is Captain Dough Hook. After I bought the Captain, I gave him a thorough cleaning, even to the point of using a paperclip to get into the little crevices that were full of gunk. In the couple of years since then, I have not given him another cleaning. Usually it's just a quick swipe with a dish towel when the accumulation of flour gets too thick. A deep cleaning would be to use a wet dish towel. Me, I don't care if something is messy, as long as it's my mess.
Captain Dough Hook is old and monstrous. Maybe the new ones, the ones that come in all the different colors, are incredibly heavy and unwieldy, too. I wouldn't know. My mother has one of the newer ones, in forest green, but she doesn't use it much. I bet I could have taken it from her basement and she would never have known the difference. Or I could have even asked her for it and she probably would have hemmed and hawed and then handed it over. A few years later, she would have forgotten how she never used that one and would have bought another one.
I love you, Mama.
But I like good old Captain Dough Hook. He's vintage. He's sturdy and has already proved the test of time, and he affirms that you can get good stuff at yard sales. He gets a lot of use at my house. He helps me make bread and chocolate pie, and now Josh has taken to making his pizza crust with the Captain.
Anyway, Josh was doing the deep cleaning (wet dish towel), commenting on the dried-on gunk of doughs past.
"Yeah, Captain Dough Hook accumulates a lot of cruft," I said.
"Cruft?" Josh asked.
"I've never heard that word. I like it."
"It means gunk. Cruft. I got it from work."
It's not often that I use a word that Josh has never heard before. It's true that I picked it up from other programmers. It's also true that he doesn't hang out with a lot of programmers, but it was still surprising to me that it was unfamiliar to him. It made me wonder whether the word was not all that common. So we looked it up.
It is a programming word. I had figured that it was a regular word that meant generic, but physical gunk, that had then been applied to code, virtual gunk, by some very literate programmer a long time ago. But actually, it was a programming word. The wikipedia article gives an etymology, which is possibly made up. However, it's amusing, so I have decided to believe it.
"The origin of the term is uncertain, but it may be derived from Harvard University Cruft Laboratory, which was the Harvard Physics Department's radar lab during World War II. As late as the early 1990s, unused technical equipment could be seen stacked in front of Cruft Hall's windows. According to students, if the place filled with useless machinery is called Cruft Hall, the machinery itself must be cruft. This image of "discarded technical clutter" quickly migrated from hardware to software."
So it started out referring to physical computer junk, then someone started using it to describe virtual computer gunk. And then, on October 2, 2010, I stretched it to apply to physical, non-computer gunk. Maybe I was the first person to ever expand the use of "cruft" into the kitchen. Look at me, I'm a trendsetter!
Of course, that sort of thing happens all the time. People take words and use them in new ways and other people hear them and start using the word in the new way and maybe some other new ways of their own. It would be impossible to trace the first time someone made that leap for cruft, and it's likely that they didn't even notice the linguistic trails they were blazing.
So that's why I'm documenting the moment that I used "cruft" to describe old pieces of dried-up dough. If this is the first documented use, then I get credit, and someday, I will be in all the dictionaries. I have witnesses, too: Josh and Captain Dough Hook.*
*Note: Okay, I know that if you just google "cruft," you'll come up with lots of examples of people using it to describe dust bunnies or toe jam or some other non-computer, physical gunk. I can only say that those people must have been spying on me last week and then pre-dated their websites in an effort to take credit for my inspired innovation in language.