Kludge

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Definition: An inelegant and clumsy solution to a problem that is effective for a short time.

 

Pronunciation: Klooj

Origin:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), kludge can be traced to a 1962 article in Datamation by Jackson W. Granholm entitled “How to Design a Kludge”.  The word can be further traced to kluge, a word of similar meaning but different pronunciation which is common in the US and in Great Britain.  Both words ultimately derive from the German adjective klug, meaning smart or witty.  While kludge originally meant something more in line with “a clever workaround to a difficult problem” (i.e. clever or witty, in line with the meaning of the original German word) it evolved to mean quite the opposite.  The word kludge is most often found in technical professions such as engineering, computer science, and neuroscience.

Why this word?

In our family I am the more verbal person while my husband is the more mathematical one.  When he used this word the other night I was certain it wasn’t a real word, but was soon proven wrong.  Given the link between this word and more mathematical professions it isn’t surprising that he would know it, working in computers and coming from a family of engineers.  It accurately describes my relationship with computers however- a barely tenable stance that occasionally feels as though I have jammed a square peg into a round hole to accomplish a task.

How to use the word kludge?

“I had to kludge together a solution.  It will hold for now but I don’t expect it to last very long.” 

“I fixed it, but it’s very kludgy (adjectival use), so I’ll have to do a proper job later.”

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About Author

Kate Fulton has a bachelor’s degree in classics and psychology from the University of Massachusetts and is working on a library science degree from Simmons College. She has always been fascinated by words- their usage, spelling, and etymology. Kate may be one of the few people who enjoyed the verbal section of the SAT. Yes, she is a word geek. Currently she bores her husband and young daughter with her love of vocabulary.

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