This week I’ve been slowly translating Judith Souriau‘s post about Repaired Things on the Libération arts blog, using my rusty high school French and the Mac translation widget.

I got stuck on this phrase:

les objets les plus simples mais aussi les plus créatifs de l’économie du système D.”

The widget translated “système D” as “resourcefulness”, so I Wikipedia’d it. Turns out it’s slang. The “D” stands both for the words débrouillard and demerder, meaning to de-tangle and de-shit respectively. It was popularized by food writer Anthony Bourdain, who used it to describe MacGyver-ish ways to whip up something from nothing or to dig yourself out of a culinary hole or a recipe-gone-wrong. But I guess now it can be used for any sort of under-the-gun creativity.

Unlike the somewhat clinical “repair”, these words conjure up thoughts of a pulling out of the muck and chaos, a rescue from oblivion, or a staving off of entropy that requires as much elbow grease as ingenuity.

I recently discovered Kevin Kelly‘s blog Street Use, which documents amazing instances of Système D from all over the world. Here are some favorites. The first is a raft kept afloat by bags of syrofoam peanuts! The rest are more or less self-explanatory. Click on the images to see the original posts.

One thought on “Système D

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