Challenging Word of the Week: ukase


(YOOH kase, yooh KAZE) noun

Originally, in imperial Russia, a ukase was an order or edict handed down by the Czar, which automatically acquired the force of law, but the term has now come to denote any preemptory proclamation issued by an absolute or arbitrary authority without right of appeal. The use of the term need not be confined to duly constituted government authorities. It can be said that certain party bosses never make suggestions or call for them; they simply hand out ukases. Hollywood moguls, old style, operated by ukase. We took the word from the French, who based it on Russian ukaz*.

My example: Bill Clinton and the leadership of the Democratic Party issued a ukase to Disney and ABC last week (see also this).

Is it really so surprising that the freedom-loving left — so admiring of the repressive regimes of Castro and Chavez and concerned that the rights of non-citizen terrorists are being infringed — can’t wait to apply the same techniques here at home? They can’t even wait to see if they’ll come into power first, because in their own minds they’ve never been out of power.

* From the book, “1000 Most Challenging Words” by Norman W. Schur, ©1987 by the Ballantine Reference Library, Random House. I post a weekly “Challenging Words” definition to call more attention to this delightful book and to promote interesting word usage in the blogosphere. I challenge other bloggers to work the current word into a post sometime in the coming week. If you manage to do so, please leave a comment or a link to where I can find it. Previous words in this series can be found under the appropriate Category heading in the right-hand sidebar.

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