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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

A New Name for the Pain

Amandeep Coleman
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Jul 02, 2008

If you’ve been wondering how, exactly, to describe the current state of economic pain we’re experiencing, John Kay at the Financial Times has the answer.

Kay launched a contest for readers to come up with the pithiest term for an anti-bubble. Going cute wasn’t the answer, Kay said, so right away “elbbub” was tossed off the table. But anything too complicated wouldn’t fit, either; Kay said specifically that “the word must be short enough to be part of the vocabulary of Jim Cramer of CNBC.”

Kay liked “trubble,” especially for the Shakespeare allusion, but felt it didn’t go far enough. I might have suggested the Great Depression, except that it’s already taken.

Readers who didn’t win the contest still came up with ways to explain the current mess far more succinctly than experts have, Kay noted:

Sean Guerin pointed out that a sponge can be compressed to a tiny fraction of its initial volume and drenches whoever happens to be holding it at the time. Lawrence Kelty describes our travails as limbo, the anteroom to hell where nothing really happens. The image of Chuck Prince, Citigroup’s former chief executive, limbo dancing, reaching lower and lower beneath the stick without ever touching the floor, was almost worth the prize. Graham Cox was eloquent in his description of the Titanic. The process starts with a collision with something apparently small but actually large and immovable. The situation steadily deteriorates, the band plays on and those in authority give the false statements of reassurance everyone wants to hear. Finally the first-class passengers disembark, leaving others to drown.

Not perfect, but getting close. Kay almost settled on - bungee.

The most compelling image is surely the bungee. You are in free fall. You expect that fall will end and reverse before you hit the ground, but you do not know when. And bungee jumping offers the same kind of immature pleasure as blowing bubbles in the air.

The problem is that bungee describes the cord, not the process, Kay explained. So, the winning entry - the “bunge.”

Let me know if you start to hear it on CNBC. By the way, first prize was - of course - a bottle of bubbly.

Amandeep Coleman | Amandeep had never known a moment when she wasn't reading or making up stories, having been born into a family of readers. She took out a pencil and notebook during the now-famous blizzard and started writing down one of those stories. It was there that I began my professional life. Her first book was written after several rejections and manuscripts. She is a member of many writers' organizations and has received several accolades from her peers and the publishing industry. The New Yorker recently dubbed her "America's favorite novelist".


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