"The professor's first instruction to the [playwriting] class was a ukase: Never begin a play with a telephone ringing." (Bruce McCabe, The Boston Globe, June 23, 2000)
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English speakers adopted "ukase" more or less simultaneously from French ("ukase") and Russian ("ukaz") in the early 18th century. The word can be traced further back to the Russian verb "ukazat'," meaning "to show" or "to order," and its ultimate source is an ancient root that led to similar words in Latin, Sanskrit, and Old Church Slavic. A Russian ukase was a command from the highest levels of government that could not be disobeyed. But by the early 19th century, English speakers were also using "ukase" generally for any command that seemed to come from a higher authority, particularly one that was final or arbitrary.
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