In with the new, out with the old: The defining words of 2013
As 2013 tapers off and 'stall speed turns to warp speed', Richard Northedge looks back at the year's defining words – and at others whose day has passed
Tuesday 31 December 2013
No one talks of Plan B nowadays. Like triple dip, it is one of those phrases that new dictionaries should describe as obsolete. Big Society may be heading there too, but 2013 has provided plenty of additions to the English language.
Forward guidance is the new buzzword from the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, along with escape velocity, an economy's ability to break free from stagnation. The Bank also speculated on negative interest rates. Japan's central bank gave us qualitative easing and China's stimulus was short-term liquidity operations.
The US talk was of tapering. Indeed, hedge funds dubbed the expected month for reducing quantitative easing as "Septaper" before one Federal Reserve president dubbed them "feral hogs".
The Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulatory Authority entered the UK lexicon, replacing the Financial Services Authority. Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, condemned the Bank of England's capital Taliban, whose demands for stronger reserves were curbing lending. The regulatory phrase from Basle was liquidity coverage ratio, and for Argentina an IMF sovereign-debt restructuring mechanism was proposed.
Cyprus became the first bailed-in rescue – followed by Britain's Co-op. The Credit Suisse and Barclays wipe-out bonds – contingent convertibles, or cocos – mean investors know their haircut terms in advance. UK banks face an electronic ring fence to protect retail savers from casino banking – though the Civil Service quickly banned the term.
One US dealing desk was dubbed Treasure Island by brokers guilty of Libor-fixing. "Sheep" were the banks copying the made-up rates. Alleged currency fixers called themselves The Mafia, The Sterling Lads and The Cartel.
Project Mango was Rich Ricci's name for the operation to thin down Barclays investment bank before he thinned himself out. Barclays introduced a regime of Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship – best not shortened to Rises when pay remains under fire. HSBC's euphemism was to "demise" 942 jobs.
Lloyds can finally stop referring to Project Verde now that the 630 branches have been rebranded as TSB. Lloyds' shares rose above the "fiscal in-price" at which the state can sell at a profit.
Banks were accused of an "extend and pretend" policy in rolling over loans to zombie companies (a 2012 addition to the dictionary). Bank America Merrill Lynch devised the Crash acronym for the effect on markets of Conflict, Rates, Asia, Speculation and Housing. In Britain, Help to Buy boosted the housing market, with gazumping and sealed bids returning to the vocabulary. Mark Carney warned of the market going from "stall speed to warp speed".
The US devised Reo-to-rental bonds, for tenanted real-estate-owned properties, bundling them into "single-family rental securitisations". UK council tenants renamed their new under-occupation subsidy the spare-room tax.
Politicians called each other names too. Ken Clarke branded Ukip members "clowns". David Cameron declared them "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists". And one senior Tory referred to his own party activists as "mad swivel-eyed loons". Michael Gove said the idea that he would replace Cameron was "bonkerooney". The Treasury denounced government members opposing spending as the National Union of Ministers.
Operation True Blue was Margaret Thatcher's funeral. She had been a leader, Lord Tebbit declared, "left at the mercy of her friends".
The Scots coined rUK for the rest of the United Kingdom after independence. Brexit was Britain's mooted split from the EU. Tebbit called pro-Europeans "the Brussels Irregulars". The Five Star Movement fought the Italian election under comedian Beppe Grillo; Pirate parties fought the German and Icelandic elections. Angela Merkel used "shitstorm" to describe voter opposition; Cameron described environmental taxes as "green crap".
The US pulled back from the fiscal cliff but faced sequestration and went into shutdown over Obamacare. The President told us "the next revolution in manufacturing is 'Made in America'".
The Jeavons formula ousted the Carli formula for calculating Britain's retail price index. Bitcoin and its Ripple rival were used by drug dealers using the Silk Road website and as payoffs to hackers who install ransomware.
Deutsche Bank grouped Brazil, Indonesia, India, Turkey and South Africa into Biits. HSBC called them the Fragile Five – then appended Ukraine to make a Shaky Six. Jim O'Neill, the former Goldman Sachs banker who gave us Brics, coined the Mint nations: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been imported to the UK retail calendar and dictionary. When US stores group Jos A Bank tried to take over Men's Wearhouse, its target revived the Pac-Man defence by bidding for Bank. British Airways issued enhanced equipment trust certificates, a hybrid bond with planes as collateral.
George Osborne is launching social-impact bonds. But the MoD axed its GoCo (government-owned, contractor-operated) plan to privatise procurement. Schools introduced an English Baccalaureate with a new vocational TechBacc. Low-earners without higher education were put into a new social class, the Precariat. Maidstone Mums are the bargain-seeking social group that supermarkets now target. The low-paid complain of zero-hours contracts. Offensive tweeting cut short Kent's Youth Crime Commissioner's career. Selfies caught on, even among world leaders.
Fracking put Balcombe on the map. The St Jude storm nearly removed many other places, but bright sunshine turned London's Walkie Talkie office block into the Walkie Scorchie as cars melted.
The International Herald Tribune has been retitled the International New York Times. Project Purple is BSkyB's response to the new BT Sport. News International now calls itself News UK, while its former parent became 21st Century Fox. Its old Fortress Wapping headquarters is being reborn as London Dock while the Murdoch papers move to Baby Shard, next to the bigger London Bridge tower.
The Smartwig is Sony's answer to the Google Glass wearable computer. Google also gave us the Android Kitkat to follow its Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream and Jellybean androids. Amazon drones may deliver purchases. France's internet start-ups – Les Poussins (the Chicks) – protested when state aid was withdrawn.
* That's a host of new words for the financial dictionary, but a few terms disappeared. Motorists can say farewell to tax discs. The UK Border Agency is being renamed, the Serious Organised Crime Agency has become the National Crime Agency with its Economic Crime Command. The Liverpool Care Pathway has gone the same way as the patients it let die. General Motors shed its Government Motors moniker after emerging from state control.
Goodbye, too, to Morgan Crucible, which is now Morgan Advanced Materials, while Capital Shopping Centres became Intu, retailer Pinault-Printemps-Redoute reduced itself to Kering, Eads was airbrushed into Airbus, Ernst & Young disappeared into EY, and Kraft split off Mondelez International. Glencore is dropping its Xstrata suffix and Paul Y Engineering now prefers to be known as Louis XIII Holdings.
And 2013 is about to become history too, allowing a new year to usher in fresh neologisms.
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