PIIGS might not fly, but BRICs can

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If you’ve been anywhere near a paper or television at any time in the last eight or nine months, you will have heard something about problems in the Eurozone.

While the last major financial crisis left us with a lot of complicated jargon to digest (can anyone remember the difference between a CDS and a CDO and why it matters?), the Eurozone crisis has its own special vocabulary.

One that we’ve seen a lot of recently is ‘Grexit’ (Greek exit) as a shorthand for Greece leaving the Eurozone. It’s short, and presumably originated with financial services types needing a quick way to discuss what is either a certainty or an impossibility, depending on who you listen to. It’s fast to say and has that ‘x’ in the middle which grabs the reader’s eye. It will either be forgotten if Greece stays in the Euro or it might become the way their exit is remembered.

An even newer one is ‘Spailout’ (Spanish bailout) for the €100bn recently given to Spanish banks.  It is a word that has existed for less than a fortnight, but has been used in headlines across the world. It’s unimaginable that a word could get such traction so quickly in any age before the internet, which has allowed more neologisms than ever before. It is, admittedly, probably not going to stay for too much longer and will probably be forgotten as soon as the next big crisis strikes Europe.

The final term I’d like to look at is ‘PIIGS’, sometimes seen as ‘PIIGS countries’ – an acronym for Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain. As you might expect for an acronym obliquely referring to swine, it’s not usually complimentary. You can compare it to the ‘BRIC’ countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) which are all developing and building rapidly – which is sort of brick-related, I suppose.

Some organisations use acronyms which spell existing words (for example the fictional SPECTRE from James Bond) because it does make a difference to how you perceive a thing. Would you rather buy a COOL computer (Computer Offering Outstanding Luxury) or a CRAP computer (Computer Resisting All Problems)? It doesn’t matter what the acronym stands for as much as it matters what it spells.

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