New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz Report (October 10) runs an article under the title, “North Korean government reassures citizens “It had deep bench of brutal madmen.”

It begins with the following passage:

“As the mystery surrounding the absence of dictator Kim Jong-un deepens, the North Korean government on Wednesday issued an official statement reassuring its citizens that it had “a deep bench of brutal madmen.” While it offered no comment about the status of Kim, the statement from the Korean Central News Agency emphasized that “making North Korea an authoritarian horror-drome is not the achievement of one man; it has been and will always be a team effort.” http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/north-korean-government-reassures-citizens-deep-bench-brutal-madmen?

Though I assume “have a deep bench of (people)” means to have a large group / number of people being involved, is it a common English expression, or a particular phrase used by the North Korean government.

Additionally, is “authoritarian horror-drome” correct word? Readers English Japanese Dictionary at hand defines ‘-drome’ as a combination form to mean ‘an airport runway or a huge structure,' which doesn’t necessarily seem to fit the context of the sentence to me.

  • 2
    I trust you realise that this story is a satire.
    – fdb
    Oct 9, 2014 at 22:08
  • I didn't realize it was until halfway through, which was quite the surprise. Oct 9, 2014 at 22:16
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    Yoichi -- it's am AmE sports phrase, used in baseball and so on. It's that simple. Just google "baseball 'deep bench'" and "basketball 'deep bench'" for millions of examples. Cheers! (Amazingly, it IS NOT a typo by the writer, this time :) )
    – Fattie
    Oct 10, 2014 at 7:46
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    Yoichi, "deep bench" does not mean "have a large number of people involved". What it means specifically is: your team does not depend on ONE STAR, but rather has A NUMBER OF VERY GOOD players." I am sure you can think of examples of this in sports. There are some famous teams that are carried by one superstar, famous, player: the other team members are mediocre. In contrast: some famous teams have a number of extremely good players. You see?
    – Fattie
    Oct 10, 2014 at 7:53
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    For "deep bench", a good one is political situation, maybe, or perhaps academic. Some situation where there are (say) 10-30 or so people, in some situation. And you want to express "many talented members" rather than "one star-person who carries the whole thing". So, maybe a club, group of friends, workmates, etc. "We have no star programmers - we have a deep bench of talent!" For "-drome", it's humorous. You are out drinking, in fact drunk :), "What we have here is a whisky-drome!! Hic!" A man sees a room full of single women: "Whoa! it's a potential-marriage-partner-drome!"
    – Fattie
    Oct 10, 2014 at 9:22

2 Answers 2


These are not necessarily the most reputable sources, but they adequately explain the two phrases in a way that makes sense to me, so hopefully they'll serve to answer your questions.

  1. From this source: "In sports, having a deep bench means having a large number of very talented players. As not all players are playing at the same time, very talented players will be sitting "on the bench" waiting to play."

That means that the North Korean government has quite a few brutal madmen.

  1. From Dictionary.com, the suffix -drome is "a combining form meaning “running,” “course,” “racecourse” (hippodrome); on this model [it is] used to form words referring to other large structures (airdrome)."

"-drome" is here being used in the latter sense, as a large structure (presumably where many might congregate for a spectacle, as they would at a racetrack). An authoritarian horror-drome is a government with quite a lot of horror going on.

I hope this helps!


In U.S. sports lingo, a deep bench can actually refer to a couple of different things.

In some sports (such as basketball), a team tends to start the same five players game in and game out (barring injury or other disqualification of a starter). In those sports, the role of the "bench" players is to come in as substitutes when the starters get tired or run into foul trouble, or (occasionally) to match up with a certain player on the opposing team—either to neutralize him or to exploit an unusual weakness he has. Having a deep bench in basketball thus generally means having substitute players who are sufficiently skilled that the team's quality of play doesn't fall off dramatically at any position when substitutes come in to replace the starters.

In other sports (such as baseball) the "bench" is set up less to serve as a kind of backup unit to the starters—as in basketball—and more to carry an array of players with specialized skills appropriate to specific strategic situations in a game. For example, a baseball team may carry (in addition to an array of left- and right-handed relief pitchers with specific in-game roles, whose competence at their jobs determines whether the the bullpen is deep [strong] or shallow [weak]) several position players to serve as left- or right-handed pinch-hitting specialists; one or two exceptionally good glove man to come in in the late innings of close games when their team has the lead, to strengthen the infield or outfield defense; an exceptionally fast runner to pinch-run for a slower player in a critical situation; a player with excellent bat-control or bunting skills to move runners over in the late innings of a close game; and a backup catcher to handle defensive duties when the regular catcher gets pulled from the game for a pinch hitter or pinch runner. Beyond those substitute roles, a team may use a platoon system at one or more positions, whereby one player starts against right-handed pitchers and another player starts against left-handed pitchers.

Consequently, in baseball, having a strong bench doesn't mean merely having reasonably competent reserves to replace the starters when the starters must come out of the game. It means having players who can step in and capably perform the various crucial roles that may arise in the course of a game; and conversely, having a weak bench means having a roster of players on which no one can perform certain special tasks well—no one who can enter the game and effectively lay down a bunt, steal a base, replace a powerful but slow left-fielder in the ninth inning and run down a ball hit into the gap, etc.

In the jokey example sentence, “a deep bench of brutal madmen” suggests a "deep bench" in the basketball sense of the term, where the idea is that you can take one player out and put a substitute in and not experience any drop-off in team performance. The irony here, of course, is that the performance that doesn't drop off consists of brutality toward the nation's citizens (and others who run afoul of the government) and wayward (if not insane) policy decisions. Kim Jong-il replaces Kim Il Sung, and things continue as usual; then Kim Jong-un comes in for Kim Jong-il, and again the North Korean government doesn't miss a beat (or a beating).

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    Sven Yargs. An in-depth and thorough explanation of the meaning of “deep bench.” I think it pretty close to Japanese phrase, ‘層が厚い,’ which is literally translated as “have thick layers (strata) of different and excellent players. Oct 11, 2014 at 2:16

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