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Top Ten Words and Phrases for 2008

“I think Ford will fall apart. They have just made too many bets on the wrong things. A bunch of the institutions that we rely on currently will, to some degree, decompose.” — John Elkington of the consulting firm Sustainability,  quoted in “Big Foot,” Michael Specter, The New Yorker, 2/25/2008

This is my short list. I had to work hard not to turn this into a glossary of the downturn (staycation, stagflation, etc.).

I’m fortunate that the worst of these terms are happening around me, not to me, but I did feel very uncomfortable when I stopped by a shed store yesterday and walked through a very nice shed that turned out to be a “repo.” That’s my index of hard times: when we start seeing foreclosures on sheds.

Oh, and for phrases on the way out? I submit “flat-panel TV.” Try buying one that isn’t!

Top Ten Words and Phrases for 2008

Presearch: the informal Google/Wikipedia look-ups students do before digging into better resources  (and yes, they do that! More about that in a future post about Project Information Literacy)

Tweet: A post on the microblogging site, Twitter. (Hardly a new term, but when I saw Twitter on the front page of the New York Times, I knew it deserved a mention.)

Long photo: A very short video, possibly first defined by Flickr, but moving into general usage through the ease and popularity of creating and uploading short video commentary to sites such as YouTube and Amazon.

“Pal around”: to serve on a nonprofit board

Maverick: A Republican out of ideas

Early voting: A way to get your “I Voted” sticker up to two weeks before Election Day

Credit default swaps: The willing suspension of pecuniary disbelief (and part of the disaster of our “postmodern” financial theory, per John Lancaster’s “Melting into Air,” another great New Yorker essay)

Jingle mail: Walking away from a mortgage (the “jingle” comes from mailing the house keys to the lender)

Underwater mortgage: I didn’t even know this phrase until I did some presearch on jingle mail, but once I saw it, I knew what it meant, and that it belonged on the list: a mortgage where the borrower owes more than the house is worth.

Change: What we can finally see happening, just around the corner — if we’re willing to remember that change means none of us stay in place;  that there may be, in fact must be, sacrifices ahead for all of us; that we all have to participate in the process; and that we need to be patient. The accumulated problems of our current economic crisis are like weight gain: you didn’t put it on in a day, and you won’t take it off in a day. Have faith, be part of the solution, and hang in there.

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