Today's Word is another one of those ones that I am embarrassed to admit that I thought meant the opposite of what it means. It's ersatz, and I think the z tricked me into thinking it meant something fancy, because it's akin to pizazz or ritz (and you can see why that's completely understandable, since all have z's).
Yeah, I have a master's degree in English. You can tell, right?
Ersatz is a German word that means a substitution or replacement, and I'm given to understand from Wikipedia (which everyone knows is correct, especially after you edit the entry yourself) that in English it infers a subar quality to the substitution. There's a good reason for this. Again according to Wikipedia, in WWII Nazi camps, POWs were served ersatzbrot, or replacement bread, which was made of the lowest grade flour, and sometimes included things like sawdust. Man, I'd be piisssssssssed if sawdust was in my ersatzbrot. But then again, I'd be pissed to be in a POW camp.
Ersatz products were not just for POWs and didn't always include nasty things. During WWII all over Europe, many people did without staples and therefore substitutes other materials for things, like roasting acorns for coffee.
Please forgive this bourgeois transition from the horrors and sufferings of WWII to my own petty (in comparison) desires, but I can tell you right now that I consider any cookie containing raisins to be an insulting ersatz for chocolate chip cookies. The reason is that raisins look like chocolate chips, especially from far away. Like from across the room where you've spied the cookies, only to be vastly disappointed when you hone in on them and find effing raisins instead of chocolate. Raisins are always an ersatz component of cookies. Always.
In writing, we know that adjectives and adverbs are ersatz descriptors, and we also know that telling is ersatz to showing.
So was it just me? Did you know this word? What else is ersatz?