Goodbye HIPs, hello to Nama – our guide to the City's new lexicon

In a rocky 2010, the Square Mile needed a new vocabulary for a new world order. Here, man of letters Richard Northedge has the last word
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The Independent Online

As 2010 came in, we were still wondering what to call the decade. The Tennies? The Twenty-tens, the Teensies or the Tens? Bank of England governor Mervyn King solved our dilemma by naming it the "Sober" decade – his mnemonic for Saving, Orderly Budgets and Equitable Rebalancing.

Business pages are often criticised for their tendency to wander into jargon and, as King's strange acronym shows, 2010 has been an absolute beauty for the introduction of utterly impenetrable financial language.

In the spirit of proving that the City is, actually, a fairly simple place that dresses up its importance through its highfalutin' language, here is a guide to the business lexicon of the year.

A Treasury of jargon

In an age of austerity – swapping steak and champagne for bangers and Special Brew to you and me – government and business have become more entwined than ever. So, let's start with some of the phrases associated with our new political masters.

Middle England's Mondeo Man gave way to Motorway Man, the voters in marginal seats around our main road network who helped decide the election result, while Mumsnet (and the pregnant Sam Cam) appealed to the squeezed middle classes. They voted for what was now called a balanced, rather than hung, parliament, and were rewarded with a tough Chancellor in George Osborne who introduced a Red Team to ensure that government officials cut enough.

A Fiscal Responsibility Act and an Office for Budget Responsibility will ensure the structural deficit and massive interest repayments are reduced.

Merlin casts a linguistic spell

The Bank of England is considering a sequel to quantitative easing in the form of QE2. In February, the Bank ended the first phase of the £200bn experiment, which basically meant creating new money to buy government bonds and stabilise the economy.

Project Merlin was the big banks' attempt to agree a voluntary code on restraining bonuses. However, senior bankers were unable to reach a deal and the industry continues to be criticised for the £1m-plus bonuses paid to its dealmakers.

Celebrities and 232,000 Facebook friends demanded a Robin Hood tax on the financial sector, which this loose coalition believed would raise £20bn a year in the UK alone for good causes. Instead, a bank levy and a Financial Activities Tax will hit City fat cats. This didn't stop the establishment of a new high street bank, Metro, which also opens on Sundays.

Tweeting nonsense

The universal banks (combining retail and casino banking) are worried about toxic debt and impairments, especially on loans in Ireland, which now has Nama, its National Asset Management Agency. The failed Lehman Brothers used Repo 105 to take debt off its balance sheet, while Goldman Sachs was charged with misleading investors in the way it marketed Abacus, a fund of synthetic collateralised debt obligations.

Bankers swapped BlackBerrys for iPads, adding endless apps, and microblogging their tweets. Books appear on Kindle or tablet computers but publishers erected paywalls to charge for the news.

New business names include Everything Everywhere – the merger of T-Mobile and Orange – and International Airlines Group, the holding company for British Airways and Iberia. Airlines also had to learn to say Eyjafjallajokull as they were grounded by volcanic dust.

Krafty codes

BP – or British Petroleum, as Barrack Obama pointedly called it – introduced us to the blow-out preventer after Deepwater Horizon got it into deep water. ITV was rescued by Downton Abbey. Dubai's economy was rescued by an Abu Dhabi sheikh, and its new 2,683ft tower – the world's tallest skyscraper – was renamed Burj Khalifa after him.

Investors signed up to a stewardship code and were told to have annual elections for directors. A Cadbury law was demanded after Kraft bought the confectioner. The new Prudential Regulation Authority and Consumer Protection and Markets Authority are to take over from the Financial Services Authority, whose report on insider dealing talked, instead, about "abnormal pre-announcement price movements".

Neet ambushes

Ambush marketing at World Cup games gave publicity to a beer company that was not an official sponsor. Footballers sought super-injunctions to keep their lingerie models secret – and vuvuzelas drowned out the fans' reaction.

Many Neets – those Not in Education, Employment or Training – joined students opposing fee increases. "We're all in this together," David Cameron told kettled protesters. The Liberal Democrats' proposed graduate tax went the same way as their mansion tax.

A truly Grizzly year

The US economy still in turmoil, Obama was shellacked in the mid-term elections when Sarah Palin recruited the Mama Grizzlies to her team of hockey mums. While she hosted the Tea Party, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi was accused of hosting "bunga bunga" parties rather than arresting the unemployment problem.

Farewell old friends

If some new words entered the dictionaries during 2010, some prepared to exit. We'll have no future need for Home Improvement Packs, Child Trust Funds, the FSA, or Cheltenham & Gloucester.

Everyone had a journey in 2010: even former prime minister Tony Blair gave his book that title. It was a game-changer of a year.