And the award for ‘worst case of language abuse in 2012’ goes to…


Every time America flirts with economic meltdown, a metaphorical ‘fiscal cliff’ magically appears. On the news, in the papers, online – it’s been everywhere lately. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The phrase has won the dubious honour of topping the University of Michigan’s (catchily named) ‘Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness’. It beat off competition for the title from ‘kick the can down the road’, ‘passionate’ and ‘YOLO’, according to the Guardian.

First coined by Ben Bernanke, chairman of the US Federal Reserve, ‘fiscal cliff’ became de facto US economic news speak in 2012. Its metaphorical misuse grating on people as it became the lazy choice people reached for when talking about impending American financial doom. In the UK we have a similar tendency to pull out the euphemistic ‘current economic climate’ – you mean that big, fat recession, surely?

So what’s the problem with ‘fiscal cliff’? As a metaphor, it’s pretty spot on – it’s not a place you want to be teetering on the edge of for too long. Using metaphors is just a way of helping people understand complicated stuff. And its overuse/success is probably entirely down to its popularity.

So what do you think of ‘fiscal cliff’? And what’s your pick for 2012’s worst linguistic clanger?

 


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on Jan 03, 2013

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