Opinion

Felix Salmon

Useful foreign word of the day: herenakkoord

By Felix Salmon
April 6, 2009

One of the handier concepts to have come out of a foreign dictionary during this crisis is that of Anstaltslast, the German idea that if the state owns a company, then there’s an implicit government guarantee on that company’s liabilities. Essentially, it means that once a bank is nationalized, you can lend to it as much as you like, safe in the knowledge that you’ll get all your money back in full and on time.

Now Justin Fox has found another handy foreign concept: the Dutch herenakkoord, or “gentleman’s agreement”. That’s what the Dutch government has come to with the Dutch banking industry: the upshot is that the top 12 financial institutions won’t be giving themselves whopping great bonuses any time soon.

As Justin says, the very fact that it’s all a bit hand-wavy and vague is a strength: it’s definitely principles-based rather than rules-based, as it were. Trying to legislate executive pay never works. Signing a herenakkoord seems like a much better idea.

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The best foreign word I’ve seen so far is “fuffle”:

A fuffle is an artful fake, an artifact specifically made to fool, beguile, seduce, or intimidate people into paying for it. Ideally, the initial transaction serves as the basis of a permanent arrangement, with the victim roped into an installment plan, which keeps the payments flowing even after the fuffle itself has crumbled into a pile of dust. An even better fuffle is one that grows over time. Since a fuffle is, in essence, a fake, its useful properties, should it have any, are largely irrelevant, and so its abstract (which is to say, financial) properties come forth as being the essential ones. The most important such property is, quite obviously, size, and indeed fuffles tend to get bigger and bigger over time. This is a telltale feature of fuffles that makes them easier to identify: if something gets bigger and bigger over time while delivering the same or lesser value, then it is quite likely to be a fuffle. Also, fuffles breed: as a fuffle gets larger and larger, it produces offspring of other fuffles, which also grow. Examples come from many realms.

http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2009/03/we lcome-to-fuffland.html

Posted by Brian Slesinsky | Report as abusive
 

“The Outlaw Josey Wales
written by Philip Kaufman and Sonia Chernus, from the novel by Forrest Carter

Josey: You be Ten Bears?
Ten Bears: I am Ten Bears.
Josey: (spits tobacco) I’m Josey Wales.
Ten Bears: I have heard. You’re the Gray Rider. You would not make peace with the Blue Coats. You may go in peace. Josey: I reckon not. Got nowhere to go.
Ten Bears: Then you will die.
Josey: I came here to die with you. Or live with you. Dying ain’t so hard for men like you and me, it’s living that’s hard; when all you ever cared about has been butchered or raped. Governments don’t live together, people live together. With governments you don’t always get a fair word or a fair fight. Well I’ve come here to give you either one, or get either one from you. I came here like this so you’ll know my word of death is true. And that my word of life is then true. The bear lives here, the wolf, the antelope, the Comanche. And so will we. Now, we’ll only hunt what we need to live on, same as the Comanche does. And every spring when the grass turns green and the Comanche moves north, he can rest here in peace, butcher some of our cattle and jerk beef for the journey. The sign of the Comanche, that will be on our lodge. That’s my word of life.
Ten Bears: And your word of death?
Josey: It’s here in my pistols, there in your rifles. I’m here for either one.
Ten Bears: These things you say we will have, we already have.
Josey: That’s true. I ain’t promising you nothing extra. I’m just giving you life and you’re giving me life. And I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another.
Ten Bears: It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double-tongues. There is iron in your word of death for all Comanche to see. And so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron, it must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life. (he takes his knife and cuts his hand. Josey does the same and they grasp each others hand.) So shall it be.”

 

There’s nowt foreign about a gentleman’s agreement; as my father said, the problem with a gentleman’s agreement is that anyone who offers you one usually isn’t a gentleman.

 

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