Sunday, March 25, 2012

Take an economic upturn and call me in the morning

Ran across a term in Slate today that is new enough, or self-conscious enough, that they had it in quotation marks:
Emily Bazelon has been writing an ongoing "recessionitis" series on how the recession is affecting family, work, and life.
Other cites are not so cautious; it shows up about 10,000 times in search. Here are a few examples of it used in context in roughly this same sense:
  • Continued: Med-tech diagnosis: Recessionitis. Prognosis: Uncertain. [#] Minneapolis Star business section)
  • How to Vaccinate Against Recessionitis [#] (U.S. News & World Report careers section)
  • Creativity Doesn’t Suffer Recessionitis in Vegas [#]
There is also, which is a deal-finder type of site that includes articles on how to save money.

I wasn't surprised that recessionitis — which still feels more like a play on words rather than a serious attempt at neologoizing — is in no dictionary beyond

(Something I will not investigate at the moment, but which seems like a promising line of inquiry, is just how productive the suffix -itis is, specifically in fields like economics and sociology.)

While poking around for this, I found a couple of other terms based on recession. One was recessionist. One definition is that it refers to someone who looks to save money (which seems to semantically overlap, to me anyway, with penny-pincher):
  • The Recessionist's Gift Guide [#]
  • The Recessionist's Guide to Entertainment [#]
Or someone who is the victim, so to speak, of the recession:
  • The Recessionist is a blog that tells the stories of the recently graduated who, despite going to some of the best colleges in the country, are
    struggling to find employment. [#]
  • Brooklyn Recessionist's Page: A blog about the trials, tribulations, and idiosyncrasies of this Recession
  • Recessionist Writing & The Slow Road To Hell [#] (Cranky, tho funny, rant: "If I hear or read one more person say they started writing because they were laid off from their real job and suddenly had all this wonderful time to write, I am stabbing that person in the throat with a fork.")
The following usage intrigued me because it seems to be used adverbially as a qualifier rather than as a noun:
  • Attacks on Indians in Australia: racist or recessionist? [#]
Ok, another term I ran across was recessionista. This one actually does appear in a dictionary (Collins), with an attestation for the year 2001. Definition: "a person whose clothes, whether cheap, second-hand, or suitably subdued, are considered appropriate to an economic downturn. And indeed, this term has a quarter-million hits on the search engines and plenty of sites and cites that use the term with this meaning.

The meanings of recessionist and recessionista overlap slighty; for example, the Brooklyn Recessionist whose blog I listed earlier actually calls herself BrooklynRecessionista in the URL of her site.
Now I'll have to be on the lookout for more terms based on recession. It would be nice to think, of course, that we'll have less use for any such terms in the future.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The season's best political term?

A term that I'm sure the original utterer (Eric Fehrnstrom) now regrets having used: Etch-a-Sketch. The context is a discussion about the Romney campaign:

Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-a-Sketch — you can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.

The idea that candidates "tack to the extremes during the primaries and then head for the center as the general election looms" (#) is hardly new. But candidates (or their advisors) don't normally say this out loud.

I think that the appeal of this term and its power as a metaphor is actually helping it spread. (Which works against Romney, obviously.) It makes a great headline:
It'll be interesting to see whether Etch-a-Sketch enters the political vocabulary the way that Swift boat and flip-flopper and dog-whistle did (among many others, of course). If all goes well linguistically (leaving politics entirely aside), perhaps the term will be a candidate for the annual Word of the Year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Vote for me, por favor!

Over on the New Yorker Online site, Silvia Killingsworth has coined and is trying hard to push a term she invented. Here's the context from the original post:

Besides being hard to identify, the Latino vote is not a winner-take-all proposition. That hasn’t stopped any of the candidates from trying to pander to Hispanics—heck, let’s coin a new term here: "Hispandering" — by using their only common denominator: the Spanish language.
Thing is, Killingsworth is not the first to coin the term. Urban Dictionary has a credible entry (for a change) for to hispander in which the definition says the terms was coined by Mickey Kaus in Slate. (I believe that the entry McCain's Last Stunt? was the original cite; I can't find an earlier one.)

It's an obvious enough term, I guess; it also shows up on the Red State Blog, Michelle Malkin's blog, and so on. There are about 53,000 hits on Google.

It make me wonder whether there are other blended terms like that involving the idea of attempting to appeal to a (perceived) special-interest group. It seems like there might be, but I'm drawing a blank. (About the only thing I can think of, which is only related because it's about politics and target audiences, is the phase dog-whistle politics.)