Financial language alert

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Daniel Gross has a nice article in Slate called “Bubblespeak,” describing the way economists and politicians extend themselves, as Orwell put it, “to make lies sound truthful." Leading the list is “legacy loans,” “legacy securities,” and “legacy costs,” referring to those badly collateralized loans, mortgages, and problems of auto companies that we are hearing so much about in reports of the recent Federal Bank Rescue Plan. Linguist George Lakoff says “legacy” typically means something positive, while positive these financial instruments are not. Other current expressions, such as “troubled assets” (see the Troubled Asset Relief Program), “securitization” (redistribution of bad loans), and “sub-prime” (non-prime loans) come under similar fire.

Ah, semantics.

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