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A kludge (or kluge) is a workaround, a quick-and-dirty solution, a clumsy or inelegant, yet effective, solution to a problem, typically using parts that are cobbled together. This term is diversely used in fields such as computer science, aerospace engineering, Internet slang, and evolutionary neuroscience.



The present word has alternate spellings (kludge and kluge) and pronunciations (IPA: /ˈklʌdʒ/ and /ˈkluːdʒ/, rhyming with fudge and stooge respectively), and several proposed etymologies.

The Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed., 1989) kludge entry cites one source for this word's earliest recorded usage, definition, and etymology: Jackson W. Granholm's 1962 "How to Design a Kludge" article, which appeared in the American computer magazine Datamation[1]

kludge (/kluːdʒ/) Also kluge. [J. W. Granholm's jocular invention: see first quot.; cf. also bodge v., fudge v.][2]
'An ill-assorted collection of poorly-matching parts, forming a distressing whole' (Granholm); esp. in Computing, a machine, system, or program that has been improvised or 'bodged' together; a hastily improvised and poorly thought-out solution to a fault or 'bug'. …
The word 'kludge' is...derived from the same root as the German Kluge..., originally meaning 'smart' or 'witty'.... 'Kludge' eventually came to mean 'not so smart' or 'pretty ridiculous'.

The German surname Kluge derives from klug "prudent; wise". Although the OED2 notes Granholm was "jocular", it accepts his ironic etymology from a fictional "Fink and Wiggles" for Funk & Wagnalls lexicographer.

A phone call to Phineas Burling can be revealing. Phineas Burling is the Chief calligrapher with the Fink and Wiggles Publishing Company, Inc. Fink and Wiggles are, of course, the well known publishers of the NEW MULTILINGUAL DICTIONARY. According to Burling, the word "kludge" first appeared in the English language in the early fifteen-hundreds. It was imported into the geographic region of the lowlands between King's Lynn (then Bishop's Lynn) and the Isle of Ely by Dutch settlers arriving there to reclaim tidelands of the Wash as rutabaga fields. …
The word "kludge" is, according to Burling, derived from the same root as the German "klug" (Dutch kloog, Swedish Klag, Danish Klog, Gothic Klaugen, Lettish Kladnis and Sanskrit Veklaunn), originally meaning "smart" or "witty". In the typical machinations of language in evolutionary growth, the word "Kludge" eventually came to mean "not so smart" or "pretty ridiculous". Today the leading definition given by the NEW MULTILINGUAL is, "An ill-assorted collection of poorly-matching parts, forming a distressing whole."
It is in this latter sense that "Kludge" is used by computer hardware men. Today "kludge" forms one of the most beloved words in design terminology, and it stands ready for handy application to the work of anyone who gins up 110-volt circuitry to plug into the 220 VAC source. The building of a Kludge, however, is not work for amateurs. There is a certain, indefinable, masochistic finesse that must go into true Kludge building. The professional can spot it instantly. The amateur may readily presume that "that's the way computers are".[3]

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