APPARATCHIK [ah-puh-RAH-chik] : a bureaucrat or functionary; a part of the apparatus


We don’t often stumble across words in American English which come to us from the Russian language. But apparatchik is clearly one of note.   I found it in a New York Times article, where the author had referred to people who watch over the shoulder of a government official, just waiting for him to make […]

KLUDGE: “a clumsy, ugly structure that more or less deals with a problem, but in an inefficient way.”*


    Paul Krugman, the journalist for the New York Times wrote an op-ed column yesterday in which he featured the word kludge.  I would have read the article anyway, as I always read his work.  But the use of this word, which I had never seen before, made it an even more special occasion.  […]

FANTASTICAL: extravagantly fanciful; marvelous.

jack vance

The headline in Monday’s New York Times read: Jack Vance, Novelist of the Fantastical, Is Dead at 96 The obituary, written by Bruce Weber, told the story of Jack Vance, the incredible author who rocked the literary world with his inventive and challenging ideas for over six decades.  I have to admit to not being […]

ELEGIAC [el-i-JAHY-uhk] : pertaining to an elegy; expressing sorrow or lament

Who escaped high school English classes without having to study, memorize, or recite such elegies as “O Captain, my Captain” by Walt Whitman or Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray? At the time the themes seemed morbid and funereal to a teenager, but it was an important piece of literary inquiry which […]

ABRAHAMIC TRADITION: belonging to a community which traces its history to Abraham

In a very interesting op-ed piece in Wednesday’s New York Times, David  V. Mason, an associate professor of theater at Rhodes College, explains his unique understanding that as a Mormon he does not see himself as a Christian.   This flies in the face of numerous positions that have been stated over the past couple of […]

COPROPHILIA: a sensitive concept; caution advised before reading

I’m serious about the comment in the title.  This is a “dirty” definition. I stumbled across the term coprophilia in an article in Sunday’s New York Times in the Book Review section, of all places.  It was imbedded in an article by Dorothy Gallagher, an author, who was reviewing a new book, Eva Braun by […]