Recession Dictionary: Do You Speak Recession-ese?

Bank executives testified before Congress last month on how they've spent government bailout funds.

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.

decremental: adjective The act or process of decreasing or becoming gradually less; the amount lost by gradual diminution or waste. --courtesy The American Heritage Dictionary.

The opposite of incremental, decremental has been appearing more frequently in reports by analysts reviewing the financial health of various companies, used in such phrases as "decremental margins" and "decremental sales."

It's "an ugly word," Deutsche Bank analyst Peter Reilly told The Wall Street Journal.

furlough: noun 1. A leave of absence granted to a governmental or institutional employee (as a soldier, civil servant or missionary); a document authorizing such a leave of absence.
2. A leave of absence granted by an employer to an employee; especially: a leave of absence granted at the employee's request; a temporary lack of employment due to economic conditions. --courtesy Merriam-Webster

Furloughs have grown more common these days as some companies seek to cut costs by giving employees unpaid time off. In January, Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper publisher, announced it would furlough most of its 31,000 employees for one week.

From 'Great Recession' to 'Mini-Madoff'

Great Recession: noun The current recession, which began in December 2007.

The length and severity of the current recession has led some in the media to dub it the "Great Recession," a term that echoes the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"It won't produce as steep a fall in American output as the Depression did, but it may prove to be as prolonged," Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson wrote in an op-ed article last week in The New York Times.

layoff: noun 1. The act of suspending or dismissing an employee, as for lack of work or because of corporate reorganization. 2. A period of temporary inactivity or rest.

The word layoff once was used synonymously with the word furlough -- meaning a temporary dismissal for work -- but, unfortunately for many workers, layoffs announced during this recession tend to be of the permanent variety.

mini-Madoff: noun A scammer who perpetuates a pyramid scheme similar to but smaller than that allegedly run by Bernard L. Madoff, a once-respected Wall Street player who is accused of bilking investors out of tens of billions of dollars.

Bernard L. Madoff

As the economy unravels, more and more alleged pyramid schemes -- through which scammers pay early investors with cash from new investors -- are coming to light. The alleged cases of Robert Allen Stanford in Texas and Arthur G. Nadel in Florida have, after Madoff, become among the most notable.

recessionista: noun One who remains stylish during times of economic hardship; a woman who updates her wardrobe in a frugal manner. --courtesy Merriam-Webster

Recessionista is what linguists call a portmanteau -- a word formed from parts of two or more separate words. In this case, recessionista is a play on the words "fashionista" and, of course, recession.

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