The Open Dictionary has gone a bit ‘financial’ this week, with entries reflecting the difficult economic times. Firstly, there’s sugar daddy, a new use for an old term. Previously, a sugar daddy was an older man who lavished gifts on a younger woman, now it’s a foreign investor who saves a football club’s bacon by buying it out. Then we have another new sense for an old word, contagion. While the most popular meaning for contagion used to be the medical one – some nasty disease you’d be better off avoiding – it’s now being used to describe the spread of financial failure.
Both of these new words liken financial issues to living things, and they seem very appropriate; the economic downturn has been like a nasty case of swine flu affecting the world’s economy, and several football clubs are now having to convince their fans they’ve done the right thing in accepting foreign investment, just as a young woman might try to convince her family that she should, indeed, marry her new, ageing fiancé.
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Yes, this link between economic and physical well-being is well-established, and was noted by people like George Lakoff as a recurrent metaphor in English and other languages. Have a look at the ‘metaphor box’ at the end of the dictionary’s entry for ‘problem’ (http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/problem) – it’s full of examples of ‘ailing’ economies, ‘remedies’ for financial problems, signs of ‘recovery’ and so on.