Words in the News


© Stuart Cox
Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

The Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney reported this week that the latest round of stress tests on the UK’s biggest banks had revealed that they were in robust enough shape to withstand even a disorderly Brexit (in which the UK would leave the EU in March 2019 without a trade or transition deal in place).

If the term disorderly Brexit conjures up images of a drunken John  Bull or Britannia staggering out of the EU club and falling down the steps as they go, this is not surprising (of course the UK consists of more than England or Britain, but I don’t think there is a personification for the whole of the UK). The adjective disorderly collocates most strongly with the noun conduct, disorderly conduct being an offence in UK law. The next strongest collocate is the adjective drunk, in the phrase drunk and disorderly.

Another strong group of collocates is nouns like default, liquidation, break-up and collapse, giving a hint that the kind of disorderly behaviour referred to here is economic or financial rather than social. Ironically many of the corpus citations for these terms date from four or five years ago and refer to the possibility of Greece exiting either the euro or the EU as a whole, which just shows how quickly things can change.

The first recorded use of disorderly was in the 16th century and it is a combination of the noun disorder and the suffix -ly. The opposite of disorderly is, of course, orderly and no doubt the Bank of England Governor is one of many in the City hoping for an orderly Brexit.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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