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Business Analysis & Features

How we found words to describe the year

From Camnesia to Taxageddon and Shareholder Spring to Doris money, the markets spoke a new language in 2012

Richard Northedge

Headwinds were everywhere in 2012. They blew the black cloud of uncertainty that Sir Mervyn King saw overhanging the UK economy. George Osborne thought they came from Europe, where Mario Draghi of the European Central Bank promised to do whatever it takes. That – backed by a European Stability Mechanism and a Fund for Orderly Bank Restructuring that implemented LTRO, long-term refinancing operation – postponed Grexit. OSI – official sector involvement – will mean writing off Greek bailout funds.

The British watched from the sidelines – likened by German magazine Der Spiegel to Muppets, after Waldorf and Statler. Former Goldman Sachs banker Greg Smith claimed clients were called Muppets. HBoS, it emerged from the Farepak court case, referred to the public's savings as Doris money.

Kweku Adoboli, UBS's convicted fixed-income dealer, called his slush fund Umbrella but the headwinds left him no savings for a rainy day. His losses outdid the London Whale trader who cost JP Morgan $2bn – though boss Jamie Dimon described it as a tempest in a teapot. Lowballing Libor – putting in low submissions – led to a clean-up at Barclays called Project Transform.

Standard Chartered did U-turn transactions – transferring hot money into New York and out again – for "terrorists, weapons dealers, drug kingpins and corrupt regimes", according to regulators. The US Department of Justice's $1bn action against Bank of America concentrated on the high-speed swim lane and the hussle – paying bonuses on lending volumes rather than quality.

The UBS whistleblower paid $104m for revealing tax avoidance schemes was given the pseudonym Tarantula. Operation Tabernula is Britain's most complex insider-dealing investigation. UK tax schemes were given names such as Eclipse, K2, Icebreaker. Football manager Harry Redknapp called his Monaco account Rosie47 after his dog and his birth year – and was acquitted. The Inland Revenue appointed Assurance Commissioners to scrutinise all tax settlements over £100m.

But the Chancellor's Budget became an omnishambles, remembered for Pastygate, granny tax and nanny tax. He promised 110 per cent attention to the economy. However, there was no helicopter money for the battered base – the low earners below the squeezed middle. Ian Duncan Smith denounced job snobs, the neets who turn down Tesco, but worried about hysteresis – the result of recession reducing training, thus leaving fewer skilled workers for the recovery. Schoolchildren were threatened with EBaccs and ABaccs – English and Advanced Baccalaureates. America introduced a jobs law – the Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups Act. NewBuy was launched to help UK homebuyers, with a National Loans Guarantee Scheme and a Funding for Lending programme to ease credit. Zombie companies struggle on without repaying past debt. Banks continued to shrink, however: Project Verde was Lloyds TSB's disposal of branches to the Co-op; Project Rainbow was RBS's failed sale of branches to Santander.

Labour leader Ed Miliband denounced predatory capitalism and advocated pre-distribution – boosting middle incomes rather than hitting top pay. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls was called a muttering idiot by David Cameron but the Prime Minister had other worries – not least DevoMax in Scotland and Gategate in Downing Street, where Andrew Mitchell did (or didn't) call police plebs before resigning as chief whip. George Galloway won a by-election victory in the Bradford Spring but Cameron was chillaxing on the computer, playing Fruit Ninja. He was accused of Camnesia when facing Lord Leveson's inquiry but we laughed out loud because he thought lol meant lots of love when thanking Rebekah Brooks for his country supper and ride on Raisa.

The horse was lent by the Metropolitan Police, whose deputy assistant commissioner, Sue Akers, told Leveson of tradecraft – hidden media payments to contacts. The Met continued with Operations Elveden, Weeting and Tuleta into aspects of hacking; Project X was News International's launch of The Sun on Sunday while Operation Yewtree engulfed the BBC after Jimmy Savile's downfall.

Project Apple was Ofcom's check on whether BSkyB was fit and proper to broadcast; iTV is Apple's television project and Raspberry Pi is a £22 computer launched for schools.

Trinity Mirror boss Sly Bailey was a victim of the Shareholder Spring that engulfed Aviva, AstraZeneca, WPP and others as investors had their say on pay with remuneration votes. The protracted merger of mining groups Glencore and Xstrata was dubbed Glenstrata but codenamed Everest.

Brics were old-hat: Reckitt Benckiser redrew the map to invent Lapac (Latin America, Pacific and China) and Rumea (Russia, Middle East and Africa) while Brazil, South Africa, India and China somehow combined to become Basic. In Germany, the Pirates won votes in Berlin's elections while US candidates relied on super-pacs – super political action committees – for corporate funds to fight the battleground states. There are red flags for the US economy however: re-elected Barack Obama faces Taxageddon, the year-end fiscal cliff that will raise taxes and cut spending.

The US suffered the ultimate headwinds – Hurricane Sandy, dubbed Frankenstorm. Mitt Romney wore sweater vests – known as a tank tops in Britain – while adults donned baby suits called oncies and experienced legal highs. A sandwich generation is looking after both its parents and children – nicknamed kippers because they are kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings.

The wettest drought on record kept us indoors reading mummyporn. The Jubilympics dried out in time for the Gamesmaker volunteers to make them a game changer.

Our cycling successes produced mamils – middle-aged men in Lycra. And Psy gave us Gangnam Style. But as new words come into vogue, others drop out of usage. Project Merlin, the quotas on banks' small-company lending, is dead. NBNK, formed to buy old banks' cast-off branches, admitted defeat.

Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Dandy and Newsweek stopped printing and went online but Rupert Murdoch axed The Daily, his internet newspaper. Trinity Mirror launched Happli, a consumer deals website – then closed it. The Everything Everywhere mobile-phone group became EE, Yell became hibu and Emap reappeared as Top Rights Group. The Kesa electricals group is now Darty and its former Comet subsidiary has burnt out. The BAA name disappeared after it was forced to sell airports.

Some names have to go each year to make way for new ones in the Financial Dictionary.