Everyday Semiotics

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Prurient economics

Dominating the news this week is Barack Obama's enormous package.

That is, the president's -- ahem -- $7 million economic stimulus package, approved today by the Senate.

It may just be the eternal fifth-grader in me, but I can't restrain the chortles whenever I read or hear about this package, its size and the stimulation it promises.

"Economic stimulus package" is shorthand for what the White House officially calls the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

William Safire chronicles the administration's movement from "stimulus" to "jolt" to "recovery" here. Yet in the media, "stimulus" stuck. Which makes sense: it's the most jargony of the bunch (and we know journalists like jargon). "Package" then clove to "stimulus." Alas, Safire hasn't yet examined "package."

Perhaps it takes a child of the '90s to appreciate the genital connotation of the term, which is only amplified when coupled with words like "stimulus" and "enormous." See an interesting meditation on the origins of the "package's" vulgar meaning here.

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