The word originated in Germany during WW I, when the Germans started substituting poorly trained troops to bolster its depleting armies. The practice spread and the term was adopted by the allies to refer to everything that was watered down or laced with inferior materials, such as bread made with potato starch instead of flour from wheat, which was then augmented with saw dust. This concoction was often fed to the prisoners of war.
I can think of a lot of things that could be described as Ersatz. Certainly coffee is right up there. Most of us know who sells inferior coffee and avoid them like the plague. I remember years ago sleeping on the beach in Crete for a summer. Since we were all counting our pennies or drachma, we would drink Retsina at night.
Retsina is a very cheap wine with a terrible taste, because it is fermented with resin. The story behind the resin goes like this. Apparently once when the Greeks heard that the Romans were about to invade their country, they decided to lace their wine with resin, so that their captors wouldn't enjoy it. Apparently, though, the invasion failed, the Greeks won and their reward was to drink their ersatz wine. Obviously they acquired a "taste" for it, because it is still available today, for those who can stand the taste!!
More and more we are being offered the "ersatz" of what was once a pure and rich commodity. We have modified food, factory farms, inferior education, synthetic fabrics, the list goes on....!!!
The more things are weakened, the more the bar is lowered and the more our original standards are eroded. There was a time, for example, when everyone was expected to use the conditional form of the verb "to be," when needed, as in "If I were a carpenter." Now it's just "If I was a carpenter." Small change, I agree, compared with genetically modified corn, but it's an example of accepting less, losing a little more, until there is nothing left of what was once truly wonderful.
I think that it's time to erase the ersatz in everything!!
My rant for the day
Have an ersatz-less day!!