Encomiums and Deprecations | Economic crisis edition

Every Monday, Talk Wordy to Me discusses newspapers' uses of big or obscure words in Encomiums and Deprecations. An encomium is glowing and warmly enthusiastic praise. A deprecation is an expression of disapproval.

As promised last week, here's my new feature. I have no deprecations this week and two encomiums, both in stories dealing with the fallout from the economic crisis.


To the Washington Post for the word pillory in a story about a House hearing that treated Alan Greenspan roughly:

Alan Greenspan, once viewed as the infallible architect of U.S. prosperity, was called on the carpet yesterday, pilloried by a congressional committee for decisions that contributed to the financial crisis devastating world markets.

To pillory someone is to expose them to public abuse and ridicule, derived from the noun pillory, which is the medieval device that locked a person's head and hands in place for such displays of scorn.

That's certainly what happened to Greenspan as the committee members unloaded on him. The words ridiculed or scorned could have been used here, but the whole purpose of the hearing was for the committee members to take Greenspan to task in public, which makes the use of pillory apt. I can't remember, is there an election soon or something?

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Interestingly, pillories are more popularly known as stocks, but this is incorrect. The pillory, at left in the photo, holds the head and arms. The stocks, at right, hold the feet and sometimes the arms.


To the New York Times for the word gyre in a Paul Krugman column:

Economic data rarely inspire poetic thoughts. But as I was contemplating the latest set of numbers, I realized that I had William Butler Yeats running through my head: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”

The widening gyre, in this case, would be the feedback loops (so much for poetry) causing the financial crisis to spin ever further out of control.The hapless falconer would, I guess, be Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary.

A gyre is "a circular or spiral motion or form ; especially : a giant circular oceanic surface current," according to Merriam-Webster. Man, that really does capture the feeling of what's happening in the economy, doesn't it?

Bonus points for quoting Yeats.