The Great Debate UK

from For the Record:

Watching our language: Writing about the financial crisis

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

The global financial crisis may have drained the coffers of investors, businesses and nations, but it’s making our language a bit richer as we discover, revive, coin and develop words and phrases to help make sense of it all.

Some take hold quickly and spread far and wide. “Bailout,” naturally, was voted Word of the Year for 2008 by the American Dialect Society and by Merriam-Webster and was No. 2 on Time’s “Top 10 Buzzwords” (a list that also included “staycation,” a frugal vacation spent close to home). Interestingly—and predictively, as it turned out—the dialect society’s 2007 Word of the Year was “subprime.”

There is a blizzard of language that strives to describe—but sometimes obscures—the strange new financial world we’re in. Television shows, websites and talk radio have exhorted us to buy or sell, have faith or run for our lives, be calm and just trust CEOs or don't believe a word they say. It's enough to make you wonder if screenwriter William Goldman's famous assessment of Hollywood—"Nobody knows anything"—applies here.