Forget economics, chiconomic is the new word

Written by Reuters | New York | Updated: Mar 28 2009, 05:42am hrs
If you know whether chiconomic and TALFd are positive or negative terms and can use them in a sentence, you are au courant with just a few of the dozens of words born of the financial crisis.

Chiconomic is a play on the newly cash-strapped style-conscious, joining similar terms such as frugalista and recessionista, according to Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, www.visualthesaurus.com.

Bangster takes hip hops gangsta and applies it to bankers, while furcation is a play on furloughs unpaid forced holidays. Staycations is a term that popped last summer when people could only afford to vacation at home. Homeindulging is socialising at home because money is tight, while bleisure describes the blurring of work and home time, Zimmer explained, noting some terms were invented by The Future Laboratory: www.thefuturelaboratory.com.

Grant Barrett, editor of the Double-Tongued Dictionary, offered grayfield, a failing mall, on www.doubletongued.org.

Lexicographers noted definitions can shift rapidly as situations change. Until the US treasury this week spelled out how it seeks to entice investors into buying toxic assets, getting TALFd was not necessarily the most attractive prospect. Someone threatened to TALF me the other day, a financial analyst said. I think TALF means threaten to do something big, but then not actually do anything, he explained.

But now that the details of the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility are known, it might be a seduction ploy. Joked the analyst: That might have been a proposition now that I think about it.

In contrast, the definitions of other financial terms, like Ponzi schemes, seem fixed. The pain and losses of Bernie Madoffs many victims, now so vivid, seem to lessen chances that one day this 1920s term will lose its opprobrium.

But Madoffs defrauding his investors of $65 billion hasnt stopped funsters. A federal regulator coined the term Ponzimonium to describe how such frauds have spiked. Another variant is Ponzirama.

Many of Madoffs victims are Upper East Side Jews prone to using a few words of Yiddish, prompting some Yiddish riffs on the scandal.

Yale University Professor Benjamin Harshav called Madoff a shwindler, while Edna Nahshon, associate professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, offered a harsher term for hima menuvel, defined as someone who causes nothing but grief.