Every crisis seems to throw up new words and expressions that fill our consciousness for a few days or weeks and then fade as quickly as they appeared.
During the 2007 UK floods, we learned about the water ‘bowser’, a tank used to distribute clean water to flood-affected neighbourhoods. The recent MPs’ expenses controversy produced expressions such as house ‘flipping’ and ‘redaction’ of expenses forms.
According to Professor David Crystal, a linguistics expert at Bangor University, the growth of blogging and online message boards has enabled words to enter popular usage more easily. And when they are used outside of their original context, for example when people other than MPs talk of ‘flipping’ their main and second homes, they can become part of our everyday language.
One wonders about words used to describe the current financial crisis. It’s a fair bet that ‘credit crunch’ will be adopted to describe any time we are hard up, but what about, for example, ‘quantitative easing’? Is it possible we will talk about ‘QE’ when we are injecting some liquid into our personal money supply?
I remember a time when the expression ‘moral hazard’ was all the rage in the pages of financial newspapers to describe how the big banks would be allowed to fail if they acted recklessly and got into trouble. That phrase, along with the threat, has seemingly had its day and has been replaced by the expression ‘macroprudential legislation’. It is a policy now in favour with the UK government to minimise systemic risks rather than prevent problems in individual banks. It may help in creating the necessary checks and balances for the banking industry, but I can’t see it catching on down at the Dog and Duck.