Printable Version
Pronunciation: pay-pê-rah-krê-si Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Government by red tape or excessive paperwork. 2. Rule by newspapers and journals.

Notes: The Oxford English Dictionary lists today's Good Word as a "nonce" word, that is to say, a word invented for use one time in a specific context. It is a rare lexical bird, but a well-formed one, so there is no reason why we shouldn't use it. A few spots on the web claim that the word means "rule by the newspapers and journals". So, since it is gaining meanings, today's word seems to have entered the realm of general vocabulary. I suppose those in charge of a papyrocracy would be papyrocrats, though this word would seem to have never been used before.

In Play: If the 21st century becomes the paperless century, today's Good Word may miss its opportunity for popularity. But even if paperwork disappears, sufficient e-forms (virtual red tape) will remain to validate statements like this: "I think I would rather stay at home than work my way through the papyrocracy to get a passport." Maybe we should call the new bureaucracy an e-papyrocracy.

Word History: Today's Good Word was created from the Greek words papyro-s "papyrus, paper" + krat-ia "power, strength" by analogy with words like democracy, aristocracy, and theocracy. Papyrus is probably of Egyptian origin but no related words in Egyptian have been identified. Kratia, however, is based on kratos, which derives from the same root as English hard and German hart. These words are also related to Greek karkinos "(hard-shelled) crab", which also referred to the zodiac sign Cancer. In fact karkinos was a synonym of that crabby kind of flesh called karkinoma "ulcer, cancer", the source of English carcinoma.

Dr. Goodword,

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