Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why 'Recession' is better than 'Depression'

Names are words. (Duh!) For a name to be impactful, the word representing it must make all the right noises, if you know what I mean. And if you don't, here's what: In the thirties, after the Great Depression of '29, people didn't want to hear the sound of the 'D' word, preferably, ever again. So, they came up with a new, kinder, more compassionate sounding one: Recession. Any economic downturn in the years that followed the big 'D' came to be termed as a 'Recession'. Essentially, recession became a euphemism for depression.

That said, the Great Depression is not the only reason people prefer recession, the sound of it, also, helps soften the blow. Or at least it did, back then. Now, though, we're in a time where some of us could do with a euphemism for the big 'R'. Whatever softer sounding word we go for, it'll help to arrive at the appropriate one once we have understood why people prefer the sound of 'recession' to 'depression'. Here's a thumb rule to acquaint yourself with and apply on all words/terms in the 'bad news' space.

The explanation, in short: Recession has two 'hard sounds' less than 'Depression'. Think about how useful this kind of 'tongue-walking-on-eggshells' becomes, literally and metaphorically, when you're looking for the right words (or word) to break the bad news. Recession, from the linguistic, oral and word navigation points-of-view, was easier to handle than 'depression'. (Just say it, softly.)

Next thing you know, we'll have a euphemism for 'recession'? (Don't we, already?) Whatever the people who decide these things proclaim it should be, we think for it to work, it'll have to drop the 'sion'. Any ideas on what the next recession will be called? Anyone for 'Hiccup'? It has no soft sounds but sounds less sombre than 'recession'. Sadly, a hiccup is too short to be seriously considered as a contender for the title of 'euphemism for recession'.

How about 'slowdown'? Ok.