Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for December 3, 2019 is:

ersatz • AIR-sahts  • adjective

: being a usually artificial and inferior substitute or imitation


“If you want to keep your drinks cold without constantly running to the ice machine, using the laundry bag as an ersatz ice chest is a great option….” — Melissa Locker, Time, 7 Oct. 2019

“Painting a cow to look something like a zebra has been found to reduce fly bites by 50%…. Only 55 flies were observed on the zebra cows, compared with 111 on the black-painted cows and 128 on the control cows. The ersatz zebras were observed to demonstrate only 40 fly-repelling behaviours (such as flicking their tails and shaking their heads) every 30 minutes, compared with 53 and 54 fly-repelling behaviours in the others. — Naaman Zhou, The Guardian (London), 11 Oct. 2019

Did you know?

Ersatz can be traced back in English to the 1870s, but it really came into prominence during World War I. Borrowed from German, where Ersatz is a noun meaning “substitute,” the word was frequently applied as an adjective in English to modify terms like coffee (made from acorns) and flour (made from potatoes)—ersatz products resulting from the privations of war. By the time World War II came around, bringing with it a resurgence of the word along with more substitute products, ersatz was wholly entrenched in the language. Today, ersatz can be applied to almost anything that seems like an artificial imitation.

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