As housing prices plummet, stocks plunge and Americans grow poorer, there's at least one segment of life that's growing richer: the English language.
From "recessionista" to "shovel ready," new words and phrases are entering the American vernacular while older ones -- like "bailout" and "zombie banks" -- are reasserting themselves in the public consciousness.
Settling on catchwords, experts say, may prove comforting to people as they struggle to come to terms with today's economic straits.
"Maybe when you can wrap everything up into one catchword, you're controlling the situation for yourself," said Nancy Friedman, the head of Wordworking, a California company that creates names and taglines for companies and products. "That's what we do with language: We attempt to define and control and make sense of the world."
In particular, clever words such as "staycation" help people approach grim realities -- like not being able to afford a vacation -- through humor, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
"When people start becoming playful with language, that's a coping mechanism," she said.
Friedman said that today's technology and communications tools, including social networking Web sites and micro-blogging sites like Twitter, are helping new words spread rapidly.
"There's just a lot more opportunity for what used to spread only by word of mouth -- which is pretty slow and inefficient -- to get broadcast very quickly and to make it into conversation," she said.
But whether new recession buzzwords will last or go the way of the Pet Rock remains to be seen. While Merriam-Webster's added three new recession-inspired words to its online dictionary recently, editors there and at rival American Heritage Dictionary agree that it will take years before such words make into print dictionaries -- if they ever do.
Editors said that at a minimum, a new word must be used commonly for about five years before it meets dictionary standards.
"We want to have some sense that people are going to have likely need to look them up -- that they're not just going to be looked at as novelties or something, or a flash in the pan," said Joe Pickett, executive director of the American Heritage Dictionary.
On the next page, ABCNews.com has compiled a list of some of the most popular recession-era terms, including new words and phrases, as well as those that have become ubiquitous since the start of the economic crisis. Do you know of a word that you think should be added to our list? Let us know by clicking here. Your suggestion could be featured in a future ABCNews.com story.
Below, a list of words inspired by or given new life through this recession:
bailout: noun A rescue from financial distress. --courtesy Merriam-Webster.
Merriam-Webster named "bailout" its "Word of the Year" last year after it was used to describe the multibillion dollar investments the government made in the nation's ailing banks and automakers. The word, which was also used to describe the government's aid to Chrysler in the late 1970s, received "the highest intensity of lookups on Merriam-Webster Online over the shortest period of time," the company said.