A recent article in The Washington Post points out the lack of a precise word to define the troubling state of the world economy. “Recession” or “depression” are words that are too strong because, after all, the author says, it is not as bad as what occurred in the 1930s. Instead, he proposes terms like “secular stagnation” or “affluent deprivation.” The former implies a general sluggishness of the economy and the latter brings to mind the weakened economies of first-world countries (and, therefore, the emptier pockets of inhabitants of these places). Yet, the two terms fail to truly capture the present economic reality. But why is it so important to come up with a better term?
Good terminology, in fact, helps us elucidate concepts and opens the keys for us to understand various fields and disciplines.
Terminology can also be a powerful tool for governments to gain public approval of a particular legislation or to defend controversial policies or decisions. In this case, terminology can become a long list of all sorts of euphemisms.
Under the New Economy, high technology has evolved rapidly and the Internet has developed in ways that were never imagined before. New terms pop up every day (enunciating the function of a website or defining new electronic gadgets): some are added to standard dictionaries as they become regular words, others become obsolete.
A few years ago, renting a video meant going to a physical video store, and selecting and borrowing for a fee a hard copy (VHS or DVD), which we would promptly watch and return —or else, we would pay late fees— (of course, there are still video stores but this practice is becoming more rare or those places are going bankrupt).
These days, renting a video can be applied to the action of going into a website and, through credit card payment, have a video file streamed to your computer so that you can watch it for a limited time (usually, no more than 24 hours).
A similar process happens when watching a movie from an online provider such as Netflix, though you can play the movie as many times as you want, for as long as you want, as long as you pay your monthly subscription. But we wouldn’t say: “The other day, I rented a video on Netflix.” We wouldn’t because we have access to hundreds of movies and it is not an accurate thing to say. We would rather say something like: “The other day, I watched a movie on Netflix.” But what term could we use, so that we could disassociate that action from the company or the platform we are using? Someone could argue that I could just say that I simply watched a movie. But there would be too much ambiguity in that statement. Did I go to the cinema? Do I have cable TV? Did I watch it on regular broadcast TV? The main purpose of terminology is to eliminate this sort of ambiguity.
While I haven’t come up with a proper term to name the action of watching films and television on Netflix, I do want to point out that terminology is still a necessity, as the world is becoming a more complicated place under the New Economy. And, of course, we need to better understand it.
Naturally, if nobody comes up with a term anytime soon (or if Netflix still doesn’t find a direct succesful competitor), the term will find its way through in the form of a verb and we could all soon be saying: “The other day, I Netflixed a movie.”
Samuelson, Robert J. “Times have changed, and our economic vocabulary can’t keep up.” The
Washington Post 1 Dec. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.