Subprime: Word of the Year!

The stunned prize recipient could hardly contain its jubilation: "You like me, you really like me!"

By Andrew Leonard
January 25, 2008 1:34AM (UTC)
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MutantFrog Travelogue relays the news that the American Dialect Society has voted "subprime" Word of the Year for 2007.

(I should stop there, because that sentence is as satisfying as anything I've ever written, but no.)

How the World Works accepts full responsibility for subprime's astonishing rise to unimagined heights of international infamy. For the record, the first use of the word "subprime" in a How the World Works headline came all the way back in December, 2006 -- Nobody expects the subprime inquisition.


But that was only the beginning. Now, in the interests of historical accuracy, I give you the subprime annals of How the World Works. Some may call this a flagrant case of Google News-seducing keyword abuse. But to me, it is nothing less than the poetry of financial collapse.

And to finish this trip down memory lane, here's an excerpt from that first subprime salvo, in December, 2006.

It may seem like I'm picking at a tiny point here, but the addition of that one word, "unexpectedly," says that the editorial judgement on the story is that the news is not that Americans are getting in trouble on their loans at a rapid pace, but that nobody predicted it would happen this fast. And that's just not true. And it puts into serious question the much more significant conclusion of the piece (echoed in a New York Times story on subprime loans today) that the rise in foreclosures and late payments will have no significant impact on the mortgage industry and the American economy as a whole. Because it's exactly the same people who didn't expect quickly accelerating subprime loan trouble who are now telling us that they "don't expect any significant harm to the nation's economy or financial systems."

I guess if that does happen, the Journal will tell us it was unexpected. And it will be big news!

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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