March 26, 2009 / 5:44 PM / 8 years ago

Financial woes spawn words like "chiconomic"

<p>Visualthesaurus.com is seen in this screengrab take March 26, 2009. REUTERS/Visualthesaurus.com</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - If you know whether chiconomic and TALF’d 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 hop’s 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 socializing 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 U.S. Treasury this week spelled out how it seeks to entice investors into buying toxic assets, getting TALF’d 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 Madoff’s many victims, now so vivid, seem to lessen chances that one day this 1920s term will lose its opprobrium.

But Madoff’s defrauding his investors of $65 billion hasn’t stopped funsters. A federal regulator coined the term “Ponzimonium” to describe how such frauds have spiked. Another variant is “Ponzirama.”

Many of Madoff’s 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 him -- a “menuvel,” defined as someone who causes nothing but grief.

Those who invested with Madoff are “korben,” a word used for any victim, including war widows, explained Harshav. “A goniff is a thief; that’s too little for Madoff,” he concluded.

Additional reporting by Jason Szep in Boston; Editing by Mark Egan and Vicki Allen

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