Czar or Tsar?

The Russian word, Tsar, is loosely translated as “Emperor,” but comes from the old Latin word Caesar. Sometimes, Tsar is spelled Tzar. More rarely, it’s Czar.

In the United States, arguably the most famous tsars are from Russia. Tsar Peter the Great. Tsar Nicholas II. Tsar Ivan the Terrible. Tsaritsa Catherine the Great.

Few Americans, I suspect, would write those as Czar Peter or Czaritsa Catherine.

So why do we use “Czar” as an informal designation for heads of specific U.S. initiatives, like “Drug Czar” or “Cyber-Security Czar”?

It’s a mystery.

Speaking of mysteries, let’s hope that our latest Cyber-Security Czar, Rod Beckstrom, does a decent job. On paper, he has little to no experience in IT security. Bruce Schneier wrote a minimalist but scathing review of Mr. Beckstrom’s credentials.

Mr. Beckstrom is co-author of “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.” I hope his Department of Homeland Security team won’t be leaderless.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
1 reply
  1. TRS
    TRS says:

    I encourage you to get to know Rod Beckstrom and read his work. I met Rod while managing the tech for development practice at the United Nations and was immediately impressed with his deep knowledge of the most urgent tech issues we face and also his practical, get-it-done attitude based on decades of experience in the private sector. I’m sur eRod knows the clock is ticking, and I don’t think hes going to waste any time.

Comments are closed.