Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Top spot for ‘squeezed middle’

Co-written with Manuela Lanza, From the February 2012 EL Gazette

LEXICOGRAPHERS FROM the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in both the UK and US have named ‘squeezed middle’ as 2011’s ‘word of the year’, while Collins Dictionaries found that ‘squeeze’ and ‘middle’ are now seven times more likely to occur together than any two random words.

The term is ascribed to Ed Miliband, UK Labour Party leader, who used it last year on BBC radio. However, Susie Dent, spokesperson for Oxford Dictionaries, thinks it may be older, as former US president Bill Clinton used it to talk about ‘hard-pressed working families squeezed in the middle’.

Squeezed middle, which beat ‘bunga bunga’, ‘occupy’ and ‘Arab Spring’ to the top place, is defined by the OED as ‘the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes and cuts in public spending … consisting principally of those on low or middle incomes’.

Collins Dictionaries analysis shows ‘greedy’ as the English adjective most commonly used with ‘banker’ since 2009, followed by ‘responsible’ as in ‘responsible for the mess’. The verbs most frequently used with banker from 2009–11 are ‘disgrace’ and ‘shame’, said Ian Brooke, the Collins Dictionaries editor.

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