The R Word

In these times of apparent worldwide economic gloom and despair emanating from the collapse of the USA’s financial system, you may have heard reference on TV or elsewhere to the R word. What on earth is the R word?

Sometimes it is difficult for people to accept facts.  At such times, there may be certain words that people don’t like to say. If they need to express that word, they may use the first letter only, and hope that everyone else understands. It also suggests, and this is done partly in humour, that the word is a bad, “dirty” or otherwise offensive word.

So just what is the R word? RECESSION.

Recession (noun): a period of temporary economic decline during which trade and industrial activity are reduced (often defined as a fall in Gross Domestic Product in two successive quarters)

Now we can see why no-one wants to use the R word. No-one wants to admit that they may be entering, or may be in, a period of poor economic performance.

Now what could be worse than the R word? Well, what could be worse than a recession? There’s only one thing worse than a recession, and that’s a major recession. And we have a word for a major recession: DEPRESSION. So that explains why you may have heard people pussy-footing around another dirty word with the term the D word.

Depression (noun): a long and severe recession in an economy or market

The Depression (or the Great Depression): the USA’s financial and industrial collapse of 1929 and subsequent years, which ended with World War II

What’s a country to do to avoid a depression? In the USA’s case, the government has decided to print as much money as possible and throw it at the problem as fast as possible. Even if that means buying up private companies like AIG, a process normally known as NATIONALIZATION. That’s fine, if you’re a communist or even a socialist country. But the USA is the bastion of capitalism, the very antithesis of communism. Thus it is that we now hear the term the N word being bandied about.

All these funny R, D, N words are all very well, as long as they don’t end up with the W word. Of course, when I wrote “There’s only one thing worse than a recession, and that’s a major recession”, I wasn’t being wholly truthful. In fact there are many things worse than a recession, and one of them is WAR. It will not have escaped your attention that World War II marked the end of the Great Depression.


By Josef Essberger for EnglishClub March 2009
Josef started teaching English as a foreign language in 1991 and founded EnglishClub for learners and teachers in 1997.

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