Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:
English merrily plunders other languages whenever it finds something shiny. Ersatz (pronounced ERR-zahtz) is lifted directly from the German, where it means a substitution or an imitation, usually inferior, for the real thing. The OED cites an example from 1949: "A breakfast of black bread and captured ersatz coffee made from roasted grain."
From the literal, it's a quick step to the figurative, as in this New York Times article from 2008: "In a dissenting opinion, Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Scalia, accused the majority of hiding behind 'the fig leaf of ersatz stare decisis,' relying on precedents that had been incorrectly decided in the first place."
In a society and culture abounding in shoddy substiitutes, it's a handy word to have at the ready.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun