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January 2006 Archives

Eponyms from World War II:  Lord Haw Haw (Spenglerian); Maginot line; Luger (jackboot); Toyko Rose;  K-ration (climactic); Garand (Browning machine gun); Rosie the Riveter

Lazy People:  layabout; chairwarmer; dabster (dab); faineant; fainéant (faineant deity); sluggard; goldbrick; lollygagger

Antedating the OED:  majorette; drum majorette; manhandling; mail slot; man-hating (misogyny, misandry); mass market; mass of maneuver; mass producer

Waters of the World:  lacustrine; littoral (viticulture); riparian (riverine, riprap, gabion); pelagic (cetacean); palustrine (paludal); neritic (sublittoral, bathyal, abysmal, hadal, continental slope, benthic/benthonic, bathypelagic); estuarial (kelt, limnology, oceanography, oceanology)

"Untranslatable" Words from German:  Korinthenkacker; Feierabend; fisselig; Drachenfutter (propitiate); Radfahrer; Schlimmbesserung (marmoreal); Papierkrieg



Eponyms from World War II

For this week I toyed with a variety of military themes, such as "Eponyms of Traitors" or "Military Eponyms". But let's face the challenge of coming up with words for a more limited theme, "Eponyms from WWII".

Lord Haw Haw – a traitor, particularly one who makes propaganda for the enemy
[The nickname given to William Joyce, American born but raised in Ireland. In WWII, Joyce was the Nazis' voice on English-language radio broadcasts of propaganda. "Haw Haw" is a reference to the upper-class British accent.]


Instead there was constant, heavy-handed propaganda … – a Spenglerian radio lecture on the decadence of liberalism and the decline of the West, delivered by a Lord Haw Haw figure with a whining voice …
Allister Sparks, Beyond the Miracle: Inside the New South Africa


Bonus word:
– relating to the views of Oswald Spengler, who held that all major cultures undergo similar cycles from birth to maturity to decay


Maginot line – an impressive, expensive but static defense which is ultimately useless against an agile attack. (see quotes; some use the term as a cultural references rather than as a word)
[After WWI, French minister André Maginot devised a line of fortresses along France's east border. The line was fine strategy for a repeat of WWI – but the WWII Germans simply went around it.]


The current Ofcom and BBC rules on product placement are a sort of Maginot line, say many in the industry: they look very formidable in theory but in practice there are many ways round them.
– Alex Benady, The Independent (London), Dec 12, 2005

… no government bureaucracy is ever going to be the kind of well-oiled machine that can reliably and effectively prevent domestic terrorist threats. … Instead, what we have is a kind of antiterror version of France's pre-World War II Maginot Line; an expensive, highly visible static defense against a nimble adversary.
– Wall Street Journal, The Maginot Department: Homeland security is about more than playing defense, December 31, 2005

Culturally, America's clout is so overwhelming that its oldest ally, France, is once more building Maginot lines – this time … against American movies and even words.
- Josef Joffe, New York Times Magazine, June 8, 1997


Don't mistake today's word for luger, an athlete in the sport of luge.

Luger – semiautomatic pistol widely used by Germans in WWII (though introduced earlier). Some consider it to be the finest pistol ever produced.
[After Georg Luger, Ger. firearms expert]


Hordes of brutal-looking, jack-booted police, with loaded Lugers strapped to their hips, moved in with "huge, muzzled dogs at their heels," trying to move the crowd back.
– Bob Spitz The Beatles: The Biography


Bonus word:
– a person who uses bullying tactics, especially to force compliance. (orig. and also, a stout military boot that extends above the knee)


Toyko Rose – usually refers to the person, but occasionally used to mean one broadcasting negative propagand to military troops
[After the name "Tokyo Rose", given by WWII US troops in the Pacific to several radio female broadcasters of Japanese propaganda.]


In the Christmas tradition of the Andrews Sisters wowing World War II GIs, comedian Al Franken is headlining USO shows at military bases in Iraq this week. Other current regulars include rock musician Henry Rollins [, who] said he generally keeps his anti-war views to himself at USO shows. "You don't need me out there like some Toyko Rose. I wouldn't go on a tear on Bush out there, because it'd be distracting."
– USA Today, Dec. 22, 2005

[Chris] Wallace … had even harsher words for Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, calling him a "Toyko Rose" for suggesting that the war in Iraq is unwinnable.
– Contra Costa Times, Dec. 14, 2005


K-ration – a field ration for U.S. armed forces in World War II, consisting of a single packaged meal
[After Ancel Benjamin Keys (1904-2004), American physiologist]


[After D-day:] As soon as the battle began, however, the advantage would shift to the Germans. Once in France, the Allied … troops would be relatively immobile. Until … self-propelled artillery and trucks [could] come ashore, movement would be by legs rather than half-tracks or tires. The Germans, meanwhile, could move … by road and rail.… all reinforcements, plus every bullet, every bandage, every K ration, would have to cross the English Channel to get into the battle. So the Allies really had two problems – getting ashore, and winning the battle of the buildup.
– Stephen E. Ambrose, D Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II


Bonus word:
– adjective form of 'climax'


Garand – a semi-automatic rifle (better known as the M-1) used by U.S. forces during WWII and the Korean War. [Accent on either syllable]
[After John Cantius Garand (1888–1974), Canadian-born American inventor]


the American M-1 Garand was the best all-purpose military rifle in the world. Overall, however, Americans in Normandy gladly would have traded weapons with the Germans. Especially the tankers. There was a barely suppressed fury … about the inferiority of the Sherman tank.
– Stephen E. Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers [etc]


Another eponymous weapon is the Browning machine gun – a belt-fed machine gun fired over 500 rounds per minute, used by U.S. troops in World War II and the Korean War. It is named after John Moses Browning (1855–1926), American firearms inventor.


Rosie the RiveterU.S.: a woman industrial worker during WWII

A picture is worth a thousand words. The picture of Rosie, as the mythical poster girl in a campaign to boost war production, shows her character and spirit. Her name is usually used in reference to her, and you won't find it in the dictionaries, but sometimes you will see it as a word. For example:


My father was a foreman in a factory that made bomb-casings. My mother was a Rosie the Riveter.
– Stephen King, It

Grandma worked in the Portland shipyards during the war as one of thousands of Rosie the Riveters.
– Christina Baldwin, Storycatcher



Lazy People

The vocabulary of insult is huge. Let's spend some time looking at terms for not-so-admirable people in our world, specifically the lazy ones.


layabout – a person who habitually does little or no work

The point is," he said, "that people like you and me, Slartibartfast, and Arthur-particularly and especially Arthur-are just dilettantes, eccentrics, layabouts if you like."
– Douglas Adams, The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy


Today's word has several interesting, useful meanings, and a hearer will immediately understand it from context. Thus, though it is rare, it merits wider use. Few dictionaries define it, and they define it poorly.

1. an interim officeholder "keeping the chair warm" until the proper successor takes office


When he [Goh Chok Tong] was named Prime Minister in November 1990, the PAP politician was only 49--and widely dismissed as a chairwarmer for Lee Kuan Yew's older son, Lee Hsien Loong, then 38.¹


2. one who, with only office experience (in his chair), meddles in practical matters


Some chairwarmer in [the Office] cooks up a crack-pot notion of how things ought to be done. Maybe he was never in the plant but he don't let that bother him.²


3. one who lounges long in a hotel lobby, etc.


He had heard loungers about hotels called chairwarmers. He had called them that himself in his day.³


¹Terry McCarthy and Eric Ellis, Time Magazine, July 19, 1999
²Melville Dalton, Men who Manage, quoting a worker, in Sociology of Economic Life (Mark Granovetter, Richard Swedburg, ed.) (brackets in text cited)
³Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie



Today's word dabster has switched meanings. A dab, is one skilled in something, an expert, an adept. Dabster originally meant the same.

In contrast, to daub is to smear on; in painting it means to lay on colors clumsily, and thus a daubster is a clumsy painter.

Dabster was a positive word, but it sounds much like both dabbler and daubster. Perhaps that is why dabster acquired those negative meanings. They now seem to be the more common meanings.

dabster1. a person skilled at something. 2. a dabbler; or, a clumsy, inept painter


"No? Really, can you paint?"
"Not as badly as they. No, I don't claim that, for I am not a genius; in fact, I am a very indifferent amateur, a slouchy dabster, a mere artistic sarcasm; but drunk or asleep I can beat those buccaneers."
– Mark Twain, The American Claimant, Ch. XVII


faineant; fainéantnoun: an irresponsible idler; a do-nothing
adj.: idle and ineffectual.
(fainéance; fainéancy)
[From French fait + néant, does + nothing]

Here's a tidbit that may aid your recall. The French king from 967-987, the last Carolingian, was Louis le fainéant. Interestingly, England's king then was Ethelred the Unready. ('Unready' doesn't mean unprepared. It is from the Old English word meaning 'indecisive'.)


Muslim historians claimed that Chingiz Khan communicated with devils in trances. … The Muslim princes opposing the Mongols were by contrast judged as ditherers and faineants.
– Robert Irwin, in The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World (Francis Robinson, ed.)

… the negative, fainéant outlook which has been fashionable among English left-wingers, the sniggering of the intellectuals at patriotism and physical courage, the persistent effort to chip away English morale and spread a hedonistic, what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life, has done nothing but harm.
– George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, part I


Dictionary sources add that a god who does not act in human affairs, and hence is not worshiped, is called a faineant deity.


Your industrious wordcrafter has now found a seventh term for "idler," suitable to present here. Let's continue through those terms.

sluggard – a lazy, sluggish person


'Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,
"You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again."
– Isaac Watts, The Sluggard


goldbrick – a shirker: someone, esp. a soldier, who avoids assigned duties (also, something that appears valuable but is actually worthless)

As one newspaper puts it, "A goldbrick is a soldier who is allergic to work."

The term can also be pressed into use as a verb, and it shades into the notion of playing hooky, spending some office time on personal calls, taking a bit of time off.


"I think a certain amount of goldbricking is necessary to preserve your sanity," says Henry McCarl, professor of economics … "I think anyone who says they don't goldbrick is kidding themselves."
– Cristina Rouvalis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 20, 1999.


lollygagger – one who dawdles or putters around (verb: to lollygag)


The life of a traveler can be rough. But being a tourist is another matter. As tourists we were free to sleep late, eat out, and keep no schedule at all. We became lollygaggers at large. It was not a difficult transition.
– Marilyn J. Abraham, First We Quit Our Jobs



Antedating the OED

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is a remarkable feat of scholarship. The 20-volume second edition, dated 1989, contains 291,500 entries (contrast about 107,000 for Merriam Webster on-line, and 89,000 for American Heritage), with almost 2½ million quotations to illustrate them.

But the OED is a work of 19th- and early-20th-century scholarship, one that OED must constantly update as the language grows – and as our ability to research it grows. OED editors give the earliest citations they know of, but they of course could not check every single published work. Today, however, search technology provides a new way to look for earlier citations, for antedates. It is perhaps impossible for OED to keep fully up-to-date, and thus some antedates have been found but not yet published, while other antedates remained undiscovered.

My point in this theme goes beyond the individual words. The OED, though wonderful, is far from perfect its citations. It is easy to say that, but far more convincing to demonstrate it with several examples. To illustrate, this week we present words with citations that antedate OED's earliest. OED has been revising its entries, proceeding gradually through the alphabet, and we will concentrate on a portion which OED revised as recently as 2000.

majorette or drum majorette – a girl or woman who leads a marching band or accompanies it as a baton twirler
[Note: sources differ as to whether each term includes the leader, the twirler, or the band-member playing an instrument.]


1923 cite [photo caption and subcaption]: ONLY DRUM MAJORETTE Or would you call her a drum majoress? She's Mrs. C. W. Williams, who led the Elks band of Albuquerque, N.M. at the recent Elk's convention at Atlanta, Ga. Men in the band say she's the only woman drum major in the world.
– Reno Evening Gazette July 23, p.2 col. 3-4:

OED's first cite, 1938: Drum majorettes are latest in ballyhoo.
Life 10 Oct. 3/1 (heading)


manhandling (noun) – rough handling


1908 cite: The fight went about a half a round …. When the smoke cleared away Dick was covered with blood as the result of his manhandling
– The Fort Wayne (Indiana) News, April 24, 1908, p.8 col. 5

OED's first cite, 1916: I feel we must treat the gifted Athenian stranger to a little manhandling.
– A. T. Quiller-Couch, Art of Writing I. 17


mail slot – a slot or slit in a door (occasionally in a wall), through which mail can be delivered

Here OED can be antedated very substantially. Also, OED define mail slot as "letter box", but it should be noted that that does not imply a box or any other sort of closed container. Rather, mail pushed through the slot simply falls to the floor, accessible to all on that side of the door. Our first quote illustrates dire consequences of that access.


1910 cite: Some Fiend Places Poison in a Residence Through the Mail Slot and Kills a Pet Dog.
– Headline of The Indiana Democrat, March 30, 1910 p.1

1892 cite: two horizontals slits in the door plate, above and below the mail slot.
– Olean Weekly Democrat, Dec. 20, 1892, p13 col 1

OED's first cite: 1955 E. A. Powell Adventure Road iii. 20 The postman dropped into the mail slot of my door a letter bearing the imprint of the Badminton Magazine.


man-hating – hatred of the male sex; misandry

From the quote dates, it seems that such things run in cycles.


1892 cite: But we believe that this man-hating craze is a passing phase of the time …
– Reno (Nevada) Evening Gazette, Sept. 15, 1892, 1/3

1922 cite: If the cult of man-hating goes on increasing until it gains ascendancy, even were it possible to propagate the race without the assistance of the male, the end of the world would be assured.
– The Coshocton (Ohio) Tribune, Apr. 20, 1922, 7/3

OED's cites:
Shakespeare Q. 16 333 As for the principals, they were in their fancy get-ups, showing no evidence that Spanish temperament had any connection with Petruchio's heiress-hunting or Kate's man-hating.

1991 Vanity Fair (N.Y.) Sept. 301/1 [Feminism] began to go off the rails into man-hating and victim-mongering.


Bonus words and side note:
Misogyny is a fairly well-known word for "hatred of women". The counterpart for "hatred of men" is misandry, but is much less familiar, and has only 1/17th as many google hits. I am not brave enough to speculate on why there should be such a difference.


mass market – the market for goods produced in large quantities for the broad population

1927 cite: [advert.] Fur retailers have accomplished much in developing a style appeal – the comfort – the economy of fur garments and by modern sales methods have changed a class market into a mass market.
– Syracuse Herald, Oct. 14, 1927 36/1-2

OED's earliest cite:
1933 Jrnl. Polit. Econ. 41 708: The most important bearing of population growth on industry is that it furnishes a mass market for products.


mass of maneuver – something held in reserve, to be used when and where the appropriate becomes clear
A rarely used phrase, used chiefly in military parlance, but available for metaphorical use.

We'll skip the earliest cite found (1918), and OED's earliest (1919), and instead give a Churchill passage that wonderfully explains the concept and its importance. The French General has just detailed the disasterous state of the battlefield.


there was a considerable silence. I then asked: "Where is the strategic reserve?" and, breaking into French, … " est la masse de manoeuvre?" General Gamelin turned to me and, with a shake of the head and a shrug, said: "Aucune.." [none]
. . . no strategic reserve. "Aucune." I was dumbfounded. … It had never occurred to me that any commanders having to defend five hundred miles of engaged front would have left themselves unprovided with a mass of manoeuvre. No one can defend with certainty so wide a front; but when the enemy … breaks the line, one can always have, one must have, a mass of divisions which marches up in vehement counter-attack.
– Winston Churchill, Their Finest Hour, pp. 46-47


mass producer – a manufacture producing in large quantities, typically by automated process

Our quote today, referring to Henry Ford's virulent anti-semitism, illustrates both the literal and extended meanings of the term.


1927 cite: He is not only the greatest mass-producer of automobiles, but the greatest mass-producer of hate.
– Congressman Sol Bloom, quoted in Syracuse Herald 7 Feb 22/1

OED's earliest cite:
1929 A. HUXLEY, Do what you Will 90 The mass-producers will do their best to make everybody more and more prosperous.



Waters of the World

This week we'll survey terms that refer to the various waters of the world. We'll of course pass over the many familiar terms, such as sea, lake, river, bay, inlet, etc. The less familiar terms are sometimes technical ones and sometimes literary ones, but all are available for your use.

lacustrine – relating to lakes


When he first laid eyes on Tenochtitlán [Mexico City] in the early 16th century, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was dazzled by the glistening lacustrine metropolis, which reminded him of Venice.
– Fodor's Mexico 2006


littoral – relating to the shore of non-flowing waters such as lakes, oceans, etc. [in more specific use, relating to the area which, as tides rise and fall, is sometimes underwater and sometimes exposed.] Also used as a noun.

"Littoral" can be used literally, but the figurative use (last quote) is interesting too.


Sanibel and Captiva are part of the hundred littoral islands basking in the sun off the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
– Patricia Schultz, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die

These viticultural regions all lie within the littoral Mediterranean climate zone of Algeria with its mild winters and hot, dry, and sunny summers.
Jancis Robinson The Oxford Companion to Wine

Newt, who hadn't spent years on the littoral of business without picking up a thing or two.
– Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Good Omens


Bonus word:
– grape-growing [Latin vitis 'vine']


Littoral refers to the shores of non-flowing waters. What of flowing waters?

riparian – relating to riverbanks (although often mis-used to include littoral)
riverine – relating to riverbanks


The proposed partnership is a win-win solution for the city to create and manage a riparian green space along the Rappahannock and Rapidan riverbanks
– Kurt A. Baden, The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia), Jan. 23, 2006

Second-home sales have boomed so much that in many popular rustric retreats … vacation homes by the thousands line the desirable riparian acreage, with land parcels growing scarce.
– Gregg Easterbrook, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse


Bonus words:
– (illustration) loose stone used to stabilize a riverbank, or for like purposes

If riprap is enclosed in a mesh cage, for modular use, it is called gabion (illustration), and can also be used for dry purposes, such as retaining walls (illustation). This use of "gabion" has not yet entered the dictionaries.


Our words leave the shore and go out to sea. We tell the tale of the whale in the Thames, the pelagic cetacean who moved from sea to river and attracted riverine attention.

pelagic – relating to open ocean
Bonus word: cetacean – pertaining to whales


Prince of whales: London's pride is to be a haven for immigrants and asylum-seekers
Our visitor played its part as if to the cetacean drama of Moby Dick born. It dived, spouted and flipped its tail. The Water Board was prompt to boast that its Thames was now clean enough to attract even great pelagic creatures from the wild waters. And Londoners did not reach for their harpoons or sushi or fishy fingers. They showed the nobler London sentiment of kindness to strangers.
– Philip Howard, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 25, 2006, expanding item in London Times four days earlier. I combine excerpts from both versions.


Can you imagine Londoners "reaching for their harpoons," which they doubtless had handy?


Two obscure ones today.

palustrine – relating to swamps and marshes
paludal1. relating to swamps and marshes; palustrine. 2. malarial
Each from Latin palus marsh.


Indeed one reads of some old poets who were not able to produce a mere hundred lines in a day. Under the "free-verse" system, some of the Palustrine (or Marshy) School have been known to produce as many as three thousand lines in a day …
– Punch, November 7, 1917

And they had good reason to fear that in warm weather the atmosphere might be charged with dangerous miasma, of the kind that engenders paludal fevers.
– Jules Verne, The Mysterious Island (Jordan Stump, translator)


Various terms measure ocean depths. Sources conflict, and sometimes a source even contradicts itself (example here: 3,000 or 4,000?), but I've tried to put it together.

neritic or sublittoral – of ocean depths to about 200 meters.
[probably named for a son of Nereus, hence an eponym.]
bathyal – of ocean depths below neritic, to 4,000 meters.
abysmal – of ocean depths below bathyal. (Some will instead call the deepest part of this, below 6,000 meters, hadal as in "Hades".)

Neritic depths are chiefly influenced by tides and waves, bathyal depths by currents

continental slope – the seabed where it gradually descends from continental shore. (A steeper descent typically begins at 200 meters depth. Compare "neritic".)
benthic; benthonic – of the deepest part (however deep it may be) of an ocean or lake
Some sources list bathypelagic as "relating to a depth of about 600 to 3,000 meters".


estuarial – relating to an estuary, the area near the mouth of a river where river flow mixes with tidal flow, fresh water with salt water
Bonus word: kelt – (per OED) a salmon, etc. in bad condition after spawning, before returning to the sea


Salmo salar, the Atlantic salmon, having gone to sea, returns to the river of its birth to spawn. On the way it may fall prey to estuarial nets. Once in the river it may have to leap up and over waterfalls ('salar' means the leaper) … until, having spawned, it dies in the river or returns to the sea. In this final phase of its life it is known as a kelt.
– Simon Courtauld, The Spectator, June 18, 2005 (ellipses omitted)


Question for our readers: In preparing this theme I learned that limnology is the study of bodies of fresh water, including their biology and geology. But I could not find no such -ology word for that study of bodies of salt water. (For example, "marine biology" is limited to biology and is not a single word.) Can anyone provide the term?


Follow-up: We'd noted that limnology is the scientific study of bodies of fresh water, and we'd asked for a like term for salt-water bodies. Thanks to readers' input, I can now tell you that according to OED on-line, oceanography has that meaning. The word oceanology used to have that meaning too, but now is more used to mean "the branch of technology and economics concerned with human use of the ocean."



"Untranslatable" Words from German

I commend to you Howard Rheingold's book, They Have a Word for It (1988), which is not just another word-book. Rheingold focuses on


"untranslatable words" that don't exist in English but would add a new dimension to our lives if we were somehow to import them from their original languages. Words that would open a window on the way other cultures encourage people to think and feel, and thus point out new ways for us to think and feel.


This week I'll borrow from Rheingold, trusting that he would view it not as plagiarism but as publicity. Rheingold's words come from all over the world, but those from non-western cultures often require an explanation of cultural context a bit longer than we'd like here. Also, we've already enjoyed several such words from German: schadenfreude; gemütlich; katzenjammer; torschlusspanik. This week we'll look at more German words, from Rheingold. And if we happen to select those that bring a smile, who would complain?

Korinthenkacker (core-IN-ten-COCK-er) – a person overly concerned with trivial details
[Literally, "raisin-sh*tter"]

The Korinthenkacker is the guy whose desk has every item perfectly in place, neatly aligned. The Korinthenkacker is the guy who insists on figuring the precise to-the-penny amount (plus tax) owed by each of six people who have dined together at a restaurant. The Korinthenkacker, says Rheingold, is "anyone who couldn't find a forest because he or she is too busy applying a magnifying glass to an inspection of the bark of one tree."


Feierabend – festive frame of mind at the end of the working day
Literally, "celebration evening". The euphoric feeling of work is over and it's time to relax, enjoy a beer at the pub, or put your feet up before the fire with your newspaper and slippers.

To me – and this is personal only – Feierabend differs in two senses from "Thank God It's Friday". The latter applies only one day a week, and more importantly, has the sense of relief from the "bad hours" rather than relish of the "good hours".

Perhaps this old pop-song by The Vogues conveys the feeling, especially in with last line?


Up every morning just to keep a job
I gotta fight my way through the hustling mob.
Sounds of the city pounding in my brain
While another day goes down the drain.
But it's a five o'clock world when the whistle blows
No one owns a piece of my time
And there's a five o'clock me inside my clothes
Thinking that the world looks fine.


fisselig – flustered into incompetence because a critical person is watching
I think of a state of incompetent "stage fright", whether in the theater itself or under the eye of a critical boss or professor.

Rheingold says, "flustered to the point of incompetence," but then adds that flustered or jittery" are inexact because "neither … puts any blame on the unwanted supervisorial attention that brings on this nervousness and disintegration of composure." I have tried to put this together into a brief definition. Any correction or confirmation is appreciated.


Anyone who has been married will understand today's word.

Drachenfutter – peace offering to one's wife (chocolate, flowers, etc.) when one has behaved badly: a late night of poker with the boys, etc.

Literally (oh, this is lovely!) "dragon fodder". An attempt to propitiate the goddess in her wrath.

Such gifts were so customary and common that the Germans coined a word for them. Rheingold reports, "At one point it was common in Germany to see men drinking in bars of cafés on Saturday afternoons with their Drachenfutter already bought and wrapped in anticipation of the night ahead."

Bonus word:
– to appease; to gain or regain the favor of


Radfahrercolloquial: one who flatters superiors and brow-beats subordinates

This sort of two-faced person has been given a name that literally means "cyclist": after toadying to his bosses, he turns around and abuses subordinates. This despicable type is distinct from the sycophant, who merely toadies.

Come to think of it, does English have a word for the boss who terrorizes those who work for him? 'Martinet' comes to mind, but it means a strict disciplinarian, a stickler for the rules. It does not necessarily imply terror. Conversely, I would think that part of the terror of a Radfahrer is that, without clear standards, one never knows what may set him off.



Schlimmbesserung – a so-called improvement that makes things worse

Surely readers can provide examples, and I'm providing a thread here to share them. Rheingold's example is the bus-only lanes on a highway: lanes that are empty most of the time, while the entire traffic load must cram into the lanes remaining.

And who'd have expected a purple-prose example in the world of body-building?


Johnnie O. resurrected the hallowed precepts of bodybuilding from the rubble of antiquity and proudly poised himself at that Archimedean point from which he can lift the whole world of our sport. … his physique evokes the structure of bodybuilding's frontiersmen: marmoreal monsters who were as thick and deep as they were wide … Now, among a generation seduced by the schlimmbesserung of progress, Johnnie O. Jackson stands as a superhero.
– Julian Schmidt, Flex [Magazine], April, 2002


Bonus word:
– like marble (emphasizing either smoothness or hardness)


Papierkrieg – obsessively complicated paperwork, seemingly (or actually) designed to make you give up in frustration
Can anyone comment on how this is related to Bürokratismus?

Rheingold defines Papierkrieg as "complicated paperwork connected with making a complaint" that, unlike 'red tape', is a obstacle created deliberately to derail you. However, this web-example shows that Papierkrieg is not be limited to "complaint" forms.


Years ago outside Freiburg I had an offer of employment, but had to be locally registered to be employed. Registration required a certificate from the police, which required a residence permit, which in turn required evidence of employment. I don't recall how I finally got out of it, but when I took all the necessary documents to the town office to be registered, the clerk muttered "Ach, Papierkrieg," threw them all away, and registered me without further ado.