System D

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System D is a shorthand term that refers to a manner of responding to challenges that requires one to have the ability to think fast, to adapt, and to improvise when getting a job done.

The term derives from the French term "Système D". The letter D refers back to any one of the French nouns "débrouille",[1] débrouillardise[2] or démerde (French slang). The verbs se débrouiller and se démerder mean to make do, to manage, especially in an adverse situation. Basically, it refers to one's ability and need to be resourceful.

In Down and Out in Paris and London,[3] George Orwell described the term "débrouillard" as something the lowest-level kitchen workers, the plongeurs, wanted to be called, as people who would get the job done, no matter what.

The term gained wider popularity in the United States, after appearing in the 2006 publication of Anthony Bourdain's The Nasty Bits.[4] Bourdain references finding the term in Nicolas Freeling's memoir, The Kitchen, about Freeling's years as a Grand Hotel cook in France.[5]

In recent literature on the informal economy, System D has become a shorthand name for the growing share of the world's economy which makes up the underground economy, which as of 2011 has a projected GDP of $10 trillion.[6][7][8]

There are a range of terms in other languages describing similar circumstances, examples for those are Trick 17 [de] in German, Trick 77 in Swiss German, Trick 3 (kikka kolmonen) in Finnish, 'n boer maak 'n plan in Afrikaans[9] and to hack it in English[citation needed], desenrascanço in Portuguese, Jugaad in Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi,[10] and jua kali in Swahili.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "débrouillard". Webster's New World College Dictionary. 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  3. ^ Orwell, George (1933). Down and Out in Paris and London. London: Victor Gollancz. ISBN 0-15-626224-X.
  4. ^ Bourdain, Anthony (2006). The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 1-58234-451-5.
  5. ^ Freeling, Nicolas (1970). The Kitchen. Hamish Hamilton, Ltd. ASIN B0006D075O.
  6. ^ Neuwirth, Robert (2011). Stealth of Nations:the Global Rise of the Informal Economy. New York: Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-375-42489-2.
  7. ^ Capps, Robert (2011-12-16). "Why Black Market Entrepreneurs Matter to the World Economy". Wired. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  8. ^ Neuwirth, Robert (2011-10-28). "The Shadow Superpower". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Philip, Kavita; Irani, Lilly; Dourish, Paul (January 2012). "Postcolonial Computing: A Tactical Survey". Science, Technology, & Human Values. 37 (1): 3–29. doi:10.1177/0162243910389594.
  11. ^ Wiens, Mark (2011-07-24). "Jua Kali – The Informal Kenyan Sector for "Git Er Done"". Migrationology. Retrieved 2018-06-16.