Here's an experiment for any reader not sure of this word's meaning. From its sound alone, would you guess it to be a positive or a derogatory term?
Did you plump for derogatory? It does sound kind of down-and-dirty, doesn't it? (When I asked my wife to guess the meaning, she said "something that gathers on the wheels of paddle steamers". Nice try - and slightly worrying at the same time, honey.)
Its actual meaning is "an ill-assorted collection of poorly matching parts, forming a distressing whole". Its origin is uncertain, but the commonly accepted story is that it was coined in 1962 by one Jackson W. Granholm (not a paddle steamer captain) in an article for computer magazine Datamation.
Synonyms include jury rigging, Heath Robinson and makeshift. Work-around, another computer-related term, isn't quite a synonym, as it refers to a solution that gets around a problem without actually fixing it. A kludge, on the other hand is a fix - of sorts.
One theory says the word's derived from the German adjective klug, meaning "smart" or "witty". In which case, someone's being ironic. Personally, I hear resonances of words like fudge, clubbed (together), smudge and glugged (up). If my theory's correct, that makes kludge a cousin to words like smoosh (a combination of squash, mash and mush).
That would also put kludge in a class of words called phonesthemes, where a particular sound or sound sequence suggests a certain meaning. You can hear it in words like glisten, glimmer and glare, where the "gl" sound suggests vision. Think also of the abundance of words with "sn" at the start (snicker, snort, sniff, snore, etc) that refer to nasal functions and noises.