Terminology created by the Crisis, what do “bankers”, “the 1%” or “squeezed middle” mean?

New lexicon has become a part of protests, newspaper articles and social networking in recent years concerning the resentment of the powerful and wealthy.

For example, “occupy” is the top word of 2011 according to the Global Language Monitor’s annual global survey of the English language.

How can we understand new popular terms such as “the rich”, “the 1%”, “banker”, “squeezed middle” or “fat cat”? Let’s take a look at the following explanations:

– “The 1%”

“We are the 99%”. That was the cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement which has spread to other cities around the world. According to the Global Language Monitor’s annual global survey of the English language, “the other 99” appear in the 10th place. This refers to the people who are leaving in Western democracies who are left out of the dramatic rise in earnings associated with the top 1%.

“Squeezed middle”

This term was used the first time by the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband. Chosen By Oxford University Press lexicographers in the UK and the US, it refers tohard-working families on an average income, who are seeing their living standards eroded by rising prices, pay freezes, cuts to their pensions and increases in VAT.

– “Fat cat”

The word was first used in the 1920s in the USto describe rich political donors, but now it tends to be shorthand for those who are seen to have it easy at the expense of others. From 2009-11, “fat” is the most commonly used adjective in front of “cat” – “pet” is second, followed by “stray”, “pussy” and “scaredy”. The term was once aimed near-exclusively at people in the private sector, but now it’s frequently used to describe those in the public sector.

“The rich”

“Powerful, mighty; noble, great”. That’s the first reference to rich in the Oxford English Dictionary but this definition is now obsolete. Everybody knows that a good definition of “rich” could be having more money than you need to live. The problem remains on the consideration of “needs” which varies dramatically.


According to analysis run by Collins Dictionaries, the verbs most commonly used in English with “banker” from 2009-11 are “disgrace” and “shame”. In addition, the most common adjective used with banker is “greedy” which is almost twice as common as the next adjective “responsible”, though this is usually used in phrases like “bankers who are responsible for the mess”.

Read the whole article.

About TermCoord

The Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Schuman Building on Place de l'Europe, Luxembourg
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