July 3, 2007


Ersatz Font

ersatz mmmm[er-zahts, -sahts] morm[er-zahts, -sahts]

1. Adj. serving as a substitute; synthetic; artificial:
mm“an ersatz coffee made from grain.”

2. Noun. an artificial substance or article used to replace something natural or genuine; a substitute.

Merriam-Webster's Third International Unabridged Dictionary

Ersatz, the German noun for a substitute, derives from the verb ersetzen, which means to replace. Ersatz entered English between 1870-75.


One gets a sense of the variety of the “expendables” or “imitables” in human experience that admit to or suffer vulnerability to an ersatz by reading the sampling of sentences from 1875 to 1956 listed in the OED’s entry for ersatz:
1875 Encycl. Brit. >> (German army), Those who are exempted..are passed into the Ersatz reserve.

1892 J. ROYCE >> To me he is a great comfort, although..no Ersatz for the aforesaid condition of my heart.

1910 Pedagogical Seminary >> When names are forgotten owing to such a disturbance, an Ersatz name appears.

1919 War Terms in Athenæum >> Another word not seldom met with is ‘ersatz’. It is the German ‘substitute’.

1927 Daily Express >> It will merely be an imitation Parliament, an ‘Ersatz’ Parliament, designed to fulfil the immediate needs of the Dictatorship.

1928 T. S. ELIOT >> Of course Mr. Shaw and Mr. Wells are also much occupied with religion and Ersatz-Religion.

1930 Observer >> The coffee..will be..tempered with a judicious mixture of ‘ersatz’.

1938 Jrnl. R. Aeronaut. Soc. >> The problem of ‘Ersatz’ materials is well considered and modern aeronautical materials (like plastics, compressed wood, resin glues, etc.) are described.

1939 Punch >> A real tobacco. There is no Ersatz in Four Square.

1940 Nature >> Present-day brands of margarine cannot be considered in any way Ersatz butter.

1942 L. B. NAMIER >> This set a high premium on Hitler's jack-boots and ersatz uniforms.

1944 E. H. W. MEYERSTEIN >> He [sc. Swinburne] went now and then to places where women beat him, which must have been a wretched ersatz for the sort of thing he wanted, e.g. to be flogged by the Duke of Wellington.

1949 >> A breakfast of black bread and captured ersatz coffee made from roasted grain.

1950 Mind LIX. >> Propositions regarded as ersatz facts or quasi-things.

1952 H. READ >> All we can create in that way is an ersatz culture, the synthetic product of those factories we call variously universities, colleges or museums.

1956 C. WILSON >> Kant, with his ersatz morality, is a special target.

The Online Oxford English Dictionary
Ersatz in Recent Use

From The New Yorker. The Talk of the Town.
Comment: Mr. Independent. July 2, 2007.
By George Packer

New York Mayor
Michael Bloomberg

Illustration: Tom Bachtell
The last seven elected Presidents have come from the South or the West, making it almost an article of faith that no one from the Northeast (see under: Dukakis, Kerry) has a chance to win, or should even be considered American. This remarkable streak resulted from demographic change, the switch of the South from Democratic to Republican, and an ersatz populism perfected by millionaire politicians and encouraged by television. If a five-foot-seven divorced Jew with a nasal whine is taken seriously as a Presidential candidate, it would at the very least diminish the power of faux symbols in our political life; and a Clinton-Giuliani-Bloomberg race would so thoroughly explode the Sun Belt’s lock on the White House that an entirely new kind of politics might be possible, in which evolution is not at issue, no one has to pretend to like pork rinds, and the past tense of “drag” is “dragged.” It would also mark the end of New York’s longtime estrangement from the rest of the country and complete its post-September 11th return to being the great American city. After which Americans could start to resent New York again.
An Apt Name

If you were on a team of scientists dedicated to building a computer that displays human-like cognitive abilities, what name would you give to your
project? Computer designers at Brown University are working on just such a project, and they have aptly answered the naming problem with:

Furthermore, they have come up with a goal statement that makes clever use of the figure of speech of parallelism,

"Our Goal is to build a first-rate, second-rate brain,"

and they have adopted an effective logo that symbolically states the group's interest in developing computer circuits that emulate those of the human brain:

Left, human; right, ersatz.