The term "airsuds" appears several more times in the book, and it left me baffled. When I looked back at the early pages, I understood: Ersatz.
"Thinks I--" the old man said, "tube as heavy as that will last forever. Well, he says, it would if it was rubber, but it ain't rubber. What is it, says I? Airsuds, says he. What's that, says I? That's what it is if it ain't rubber, says he."
The Home Place appeared in 1948, when the war and the German rearmament preceding it had made "ersatz" a familiar term. It may not have been familiar to old Nebraska farmers, but I suppose Morris could count on his readership knowing it, and recognizing it in its disguise of "airsuds". We baby boomers must know "ersatz" from the reading of history and literature, if at all. I wonder whether our children will recognize it.