Some of the (political) analysts have been argued for years about the "originality" of democracy when speaking about the transition period after the communist period (1990+). The literal expression in Romanian is "democraţie originală" which can be translated to "original democracy" and is used pejoratively to describe a strange and convoluted way of implementing democracy.

However, Google suggests that "original democracy" is connected to the first(?) democracy, the Athenian one.

Indeed, the English word original has two meanings:

  • present or existing from the beginning; first or earliest.
  • created personally by a particular artist, writer, musician, etc.; not a copy.

In Romanian there is no such ambiguity since there are two different words for these two concepts (originar vs. original).

Question: How to translate "original democracy" (= democraţie originală) to avoid ambiguity and keep the pejorative meaning?

Something that crosses my mind is "creative democracy", but this sounds quite positive to me.

  • You seem to mean "artificial" democracy or "idiosyncractic" democracy.
    – Kris
    Jul 19, 2018 at 7:43
  • @Kris - yes. The expression might also be connected to the theory of forms without substance described here.
    – Alexei
    Jul 19, 2018 at 7:46
  • Do you mean a "hollow" democracy or maybe the popular term "pseudo-" democracy?
    – Kris
    Jul 19, 2018 at 7:53
  • 1
    @Kris - "pseudo-" democracy seems the best option to describe the concept, although it is rather harsh (Romania is considered a liberal democracy, at least according to Wikipedia ). I think your comment(s) may be developed in an answer.
    – Alexei
    Jul 19, 2018 at 9:18

1 Answer 1


I thought of creative as well, through the parallel of "creative accounting". But you need a lot of context to get the joke, and originality/creativity is not as obviously a failing in politics as it is in accounting.

In fact, original can be used derogatorily in English ("that's... original"). And again, next to democracy, it just won't be obvious enough. That's the problem with translating irony: it's fragile.

If you have to go more literal, perhaps "Rube Goldberg democracy"? Or "make-it-up-as-you-go-along democracy"?

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.