Naming the financial crisis, day two

  • Share
  • Read Later

Goldman and Lehman reported better-than-expected results this morning, stock markets opened on a decided upswing, and “the iTraxx Europe, which measures the cost of protecting 125 investment-grade credits against default, fell about 17 basis points to 143bp.” (No I don’t entirely know what that means either, but it sounds good.) Which means we probably don’t have to worry about the financial crisis consuming the world as we know it today, giving us time to continue with the crucial task of naming it.

Commenters here and at Swampland responded with a wonderful bunch of suggestions. I don’t think we really have a winner yet, but I figured I’d list my favorites. Most fall into the category of probably-too-clever-to-last catch on, with at the top of the list the two names Duncan Black has been giving the crisis at Eschaton: Big S**tpile and, more recently, Jenga (which is a game that involves building a tower out of wooden blocks, then seeing how much taller you can make it by pulling blocks out from the body of the tower and adding them to the top until it collapses). Jenga in particular is brilliant, but I just don’t see it having a lot of staying power. Think about it, are history books of the future really going to refer to “the Federal Reserve’s dramatic actions during Jenga”? Sadly, no, unless Hasbro starts paying people to write history books.

The same probably goes for these (mostly) zingers:

The Bear market (John Gapper)

HELOCopter Crash (odograph)

Recession Accomplished (TomT)

From the subprime to the ridiculous (Malcolm)

So Long, European Vacation (Acid J)

A Fistfull of IOUs (HH)


The Waterboarding of Wall Street (patroclus)

The 16 year Old Me Was Entirely Correct, the Whole Game is Rigged and I Should Have Just Kept Rockin’ and Rollin’ All Night and Partying Everyday and Not Wasted So Much Time and Money on College Because It Looks Like This Whole Thing is Going Down Anyway Crisis of 2008 (Titus Pullo)

And finally, since a couple people said they liked it, I’ll throw my own Dollardämmerung into this category too.

So what’s left? The name that sticks is going to have to be straightforward, descriptive, and possibly even a little bit dowdy.

The Panic of ’08, suggested by the prolific patroclus, has a nice retro feel to it. The only problem is that it’s really the Panic of ’07-’08 (and possibly ’09). Which is a mouthful.

I also like Wall Street historian Charles Geisst’s The Great Retraction, although I guess it’s a little vague.

The Great Foreclosure, suggested by HH, is probably too specific.

If this keeps going into next year, maybe we could just call it The Long Crisis. Or maybe The Medium Depression.

Anyway, I don’t think we’re there yet. But we can do this, America. We can do so, as the president said in New York Friday, “in a way that respects the ingenuity of the American people, that bolsters the entrepreneurial spirit, and that ensures when we make it through this rough patch, our driving is going to be more smooth.” Hmmm: The Rough Patch? Naaaah.

Update: One that I forgot, from Scott MacDonald, director of research at Aladdin Capital Management (via Barbara Kiviat): The Big Unwind. And in an e-mail, one Stuart Lutz offers Rigor Mortgage (which falls in the clever-but-probably-too-much-so-to-catch-on category).

Update 2: Ezra Klein has his commenters on the case. (Thanks, Ezra!)