February 4, 2009 / 3:47 AM / 10 years ago

Financial crisis enters lexicon with "toxic debt"

A weary trader rubs his eyes as he pauses outside the New York Stock Exchange following the end of the trading session in New York October 9, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Segar

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - After impacting almost every aspect of people’s lives, the global financial crisis has now made it into the lexicon, with Australia’s prestigious Macquarie Dictionary picking “toxic debt” as its word of the year for 2008.

The noun is one of several new words that will be used in the annual update of the dictionary’s online version (www.macquariedictionary.com.au) and which include “flashpacker,” a backpacker who travels in relative luxury, “bromance,” or an intense but non-sexual relationship between two males, and “textaholic,” or someone who sends too many mobile phone SMSes.

“Last year was full of environmental concerns, but the other big thing that happened to us all was the financial crisis, and that has fueled coinage of our word of the year,” publisher Sue Butler told Reuters.

“Our words all come from things that preoccupy us all, and are also a sign of how English speaking countries are getting closer together, and the strong trend is from U.S. English these days,” she added.

According to the dictionary, “toxic debt” refers to loans initially taken on as a legitimate business transaction, but which prove subsequently financially worthless, as the subprime loans with precipitated the global financial crisis.

The word was picked by the “word of the year” committee, which includes university academia as well as renowned Australian poet Les Murray.

The list of new words was also put up for a public vote, of which “flashpacker” was the winner.

Honorable mentions also go to “guerilla gardener,” a person who plants gardens in areas controlled by councils or other organizations but neglected by them, and “lawfare,” or the use of international law by a country to attack or criticize another country, especially a superior military power, on moral grounds.

Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing Sanjeev Miglani

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