Thursday, June 25, 2009

The last words in

The June 2009 edition of Oxford English Dictionary's online Quarterly update commentaries addresses, among others, two words pertinent to the current bleeding state of economic affairs.

John Simpson, Chief Editor, provides ample commentary on the revised entry for recession. Its recorded history, starting in 1606, exhibits various meanings such as a temporary suspension of an activity, physical receding, being recessed (especially in architectural design or artistic representation), a cavity or depression (as in a rock), and specialized meanings in astronomy, geography, dentistry and surgery, phonetics, and religion. The first encounter with an economic recession is found in an 1847 Guardian article, where it signifies a reduction in value or amount. Finally, its modern sense of 'a period of economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced' well precedes the Great Depression:

For OED3 we have found the sense being used (in a regional American newspaper) in 1905, of the short, sharp recession of 1903, when (as we might recognize) "the bottom was knocked out of the speculative craze which had seized the country".
Graeme Diamond, Principal Editor of New Words, remarks on the newly-added bailout. The earliest quotation is from a Time article about $40 million in aid to, blimey, the tobacco industry, after a bad crop. (Considering how well this industry has been doing since, it appears the money was effective.) Amusingly, the underlying metaphor is either figurative water being bailed out of a 'sinking ship', or money being provided to 'get someone out of jail'. (I believe nowadays we've seen cases of bailouts followed by getting someone into jail.)

If you go on reading you'll also learn about turducken, the friendly merger of three birds, a real sweetheart deal.

OED is, of course, "The definitive record of the English language". Investopedia is "A Forbes Digital Company". Here's recession and bailout in the latter's dictionary. (No turducken in Investopedia, but the inquisitive mind will be somewhat edified by World Wide Words.)

One final word — you too can subscribe to OED News by e-mail.

[One finaler note — there is fascinating stuff in the online OED archive too.]

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing about the OED online, saves plenty of space on teh wall.