Name That Group – Economic Crisis Could Revive 19th Century Pastime

March 20, 2009

In the 19th century fashionable British gentry became discontented with the common Anglo-Saxon names for various groups of animals – herds, for farm animals – flocks, for birds – schools, for fish and packs for predators. They weren’t deemed “poetic” enough.

So they launched a classification system that survives to some extent even today. Their efforts gave us a “pride” of lions, a “shoot” of starlings, a “murder” of crows, a “pod” of whales, a “muster” of peacocks and, the lyrical, “exaltation” of larks. If you want more names go to:

As we are now in the depths – at least one hopes it can’t get any worse – of the most serious economic crisis anyone remembers, a number of heretofore mostly anonymous groups of people have become prominent. They have played, are playing, and will continue to play, leading roles both in causing and combating the global recession. Perhaps, therefore, we should start naming them, as the Victorians did, in order to both describe their roles and differentiate what they have done or are trying to do.

The first ones that come immediately to mind are a “bailout” of bankers and a “meltdown” of managers. Then there’s a “resurrection” or a “resurgence” of regulators, followed by a “reserve” of insurers and an “upholding” of underwriters.

But the names don’t necessarily have to be alliterative. How about a “fraud” of money managers, or a “disconnect” of hedge fund advisers?

Perhaps a “meltdown” of mortgage brokers would be appropriate, or a “superfluity” of subprime lenders? Why not an “adversity” of advisers, or a “conjuration” of securitizers? Maybe just a simple “failure” of financiers would do, as would a “default” of debtors.

The latest brouhaha over AIG offers all sorts of possibilities – an “exit” of executives; an “embarrassment” of bonuses; an “affliction” of the affluent; a “plague” of payees; a “mortification” of managers, maybe even a “gross” or a “grasping” of Greenbergs.

The list could continue for many pages, but it might be more interesting to see what you, the IJ’s readers, can come up with – just post them as a Comment (a “comeuppance” of commentators?) – no prizes, just something to avoid brooding on the dire financial situation for a while and, who knows, some of them might stick..

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