Analyst: New Euphemisms Will Stimulate Economy

BROOKLYN, N.Y. , Feb 13…The economic crisis is being prolonged by faulty terminology that distorts perceptions, dampens expectations and crushes optimism, an analyst charged today.

“Our nomenclature is counter-productive,” said Efraim Durg, founder and CEO of NeuroBrands, a marketing consultancy.  “We say one thing, but the listener reacts in a totally different way.” 

Durg released a study that he claimed proved that the words used by policy makers often produce the opposite effect of what was intended.

The study was done with an “eclectic” group of volunteers–executives with the Carlyle Group, inmates on Death Row at Angola Prison and residents of the Hebrew Home For the Aged. The participants were wired with electrodes attached to the pleasure and pain centers of the brain. Words and phrases were flashed on a screen in front of them and simultaneously spoken in their earpieces by a soothing female voice. Their neural responses were recorded.

The first phrase was the acronym TARP, former Treasury Secretary Paulsen’s bailout plan. 

“The word has a harsh sound and connotation,” Durg said. “The elderly people associate tarps with the gurney covers thrown over the recently deceased,”  Durg said. “Prisoners said police sometimes covered informers with tarps when transporting them from one unit to another. Carlyle executives said they used tarps to protect their vintage sports cars from the elements and  the prying eyes of reporters and government investigators. All agreed that TARP meant cover up and they had negative reactions.” 

Next, the participants were shown the term “toxic assets.” They reacted with revulsion. 

“The Government tried to encourage banks and private investors to buy these  assets” Durg said. “But our participants said they wouldn’t buy anything with the word toxic on the label and the banks haven’t touched them.”

Durg suggested a simpler label like “A Real Steal”

“Then, we could change the acronym to STARS for Secret Treasure A Real Steal.” In this celebrity-obsessed culture people would believe that a program called STARS could save the economy.”

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have been railing about bills that “are loaded with pork,” but when Durg showed that phrase to his subjects the response was positive.

“The inmates said they had ordered pork for their last meal. The Carlyle execs said the phrase made them think of the Charcuterie platters they used to get at their favorite bistro before Obama took their expense accounts away. The aged Hebrews registered ambivalent reactions, but all agreed that something loaded with pork was probably a good thing.”

“If you want these bills to die you need a stronger term,” Durg said. “Something like: ‘This bill is loaded with putrefying cadavers,’ Or ‘with conniving lobbyists.’ Then, you could have Senators ringingly refuse to support legislation that was ‘laden with putrefying cadavers and conniving lobbyists.’ No politician would vote for that.”

Treasury Secretary Geithner wants to work with private equity investors who specialize in bad debt. These people have been referred to as “vultures” who circle over a dying company and swoop down when its work force has been depleted and its debts buried in bankruptcy. 

Durg’s subjects recoiled from the term. “You can’t be saved by a vulture,” an aged Hebrew said. “You’re already dead.” A Carlyle exec complained: “Why are the rich always vultures while the poor are crippled sparrows?” Durg feels the billionaire investors Geithner is trying so hard to woo will stay away. 

“Nobody wants to be thought of as an ugly, squawking bird picking at carrion,” he said. “If we want to involve these investors we should change the description. Something like ‘public-spirited philanthropists.’”

Durg said a total rephrasing was needed to draw private equity into the market. Something like: “Public-spirited philanthropists flocked to the STARS program investing a trillions in “real steals.”

He smiled proudly. “That’ll jumpstart the economy for sure.”

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