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Words: kaffeeklatsch, n.

A DISPUTE has broken out among mature students at Columbia. Some regard kaffeeklatsch with a teacher as favouritism; and they could be right, for knowledge is better imparted and absorbed at a table than in a lecture-hall. An unusually inspired amalgamation of German words - coffee and gossip - it appears to have reached English, in particular American, late last century and, variously spelled, been in consistent use since, as in the late William Whyte's The Organization Man, whose woman, by contrast, "will be kaffee-klatching and sunbathing".

Abbreviated to klatsch, it still suggests that coffee fuels the proceedings. Now that coffee shops are as booming as dot.coms, perhaps it is time for another new chain: Kaffeeklatschd.