PHONY, kitch and camp are examples of a useful phenomenon: every so often a word breezes into common usage meaning many things and weaving together previously unrelated objects into a new category. Novelist Vladimir Nabokov offers a new word, poshlost (pronounced push-lost). In Russian it means vulgarity or triteness, but in an interview with Author Herbert Gold in the current Paris Review, Nabokov so expands the definition that it makes one wonder how the English language ever got along without it.

Poshlost, says he, means...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!