The Big Short: two linguistic notes

  • Excellent deployment of the word “crappy” to describe the bundles of subprime mortgages being sold by the banks as AAA-quality bonds.  The pure derisiveness of “crappy” denies these entities the tinge of respect that comes with being called “toxic” or “high-risk” or “ticking bombs.”  Also, it calls to mind craps, which is to say, the voluntary taking on of a gamble you ought to know is stacked against you.  And then Lewis shows you the bankers actually playing craps at a convention in Las Vegas, and manages to resist making the linguistic connection explicit!  Good writing.
  • But:  he starts at least three paragraphs with “Enter the…”  which should be stricken from all lexicons for good.

One thought on “The Big Short: two linguistic notes

  1. ARaybold says:

    The only problem I have with ‘crappy’ is that, at least to me, it merely suggests second-rate (I agree that its etymology implies something worse, but current usage seems to have watered that meaning down.) Is there a good adjective that indicates a degree of contempt for the people who rated them as AAA? Perhaps it is wrong to try and use an adjective in this sort of transitive way (IANAL), but I think to not do so plays into the hands of the people who would like us to regard the mortgage debacle as something like an unpredictable natural disaster – the problem was these crappy mortgages, and the people involved were merely bystanders (or victims, even).

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