Sunday, September 20, 2009


Potrzebie is a Polish word popularized by its non sequitur use as a running gag in the early issues of Mad not long after the comic book began in 1952.

Mad editor Harvey Kurtzman spotted the word printed in the Polish language section of a multi-languaged "Instructions for Use" sheet accompanying a bottle of aspirin, and Kurtzman, who was fascinated with unusual words and Yiddishisms, decided it would make an appropriate but meaningless background gag. After cutting the word out of the instruction sheet, he made copies and used rubber cement to paste "Potrzebie" randomly into the middle of Mad satires.

The word first appeared in the letters column in Mad 10 (April 1954) in response to the question "Please tell me what in the world 'Furshlugginer' means." The editors replied: "It means the same as Potrzebie." Actually, "furshlugginer," also spelled "ferschlugginer" or "fershlugginer," is a Yiddish word meaning "confounded" or "darned" and was used in that sense in Mad.

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