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2010 adds its own terminology to business lexicon

Remember when terms like collateralized debt obligations (a.k.a. CDOs) and being "underwater" on a mortgage were fresh entries in our business lexicon? Back when we talked about funemployment and recessionistas.

That's so early-recession. Get with the new decade.

This past year, we moved on to chatting about robo-signers and Wikileakers.

The BP oil spill, alone, provided a dictionary of new terminology to toss around at cocktail parties: junk shot, top kill, top hat. We even learned what an oil blowout preventer is and the nasty consequences when one fails.

So, as we exit 2010, here's a brief look back at how our business vocabulary has expanded:

Enhanced patdowns: Also known as getting groped at the airport — in a legal, "security enhancing" way. Thankfully, at least to most travelers, not as common as initially feared.

Forbearance agreement: Think of it as a temporary reprieve from getting kicked out of your home. With one in five Tampa Bay owners delinquent on their mortgages, thousands of people are now familiar with the formal agreement between a borrower and a lender to postpone an ongoing foreclosure.

Quantitative easing (QE): We were still trying to figure out what this meant when the Fed rolled out QE2 and began discussing QE3. In simplest terms, it's a monetary policy used by central banks like the Federal Reserve to increase the money supply through large asset purchases, such as the Fed buying its own bonds to try to lower yields and … aw, heck, there are no simplest terms.

Oil blowout preventer: The specialized valve — a BOP in oil industry vernacular — that sits on top of an oil well like the one that failed at BP's Deepwater Horizon site. We're still hoping that "bop" catches on as a synonym for "huge failure by a previously unassuming or unknown entity." Example: Judges on Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal should never have pushed to use $48 million in taxpayer money to build such an extravagant "Taj Mahal" courthouse. What bops!

Robo-signer: Sounds like a boring sci-fi movie that's light on action. In reality, it's a back-office system of quickly signing off on foreclosure documents like affidavits without actually doing what the affidavits say was done. Also known as cheating and lying.

Small Business Saturday: Mom-and-pop retailers and American Express tried their darnedest to get this entered into the holiday shopping routine tucked between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. So far, it's gained as much traction as a "free Bernie Madoff" campaign.

Structural Unemployment: Cyclical unemployment is to structural unemployment as a bad haircut is to a botched amputation. You don't want either, but one is short term and merely annoying. The other is forever and potentially catastrophic.

Structural unemployment describes when jobs in a given industry appear to be permanently going away — the downturn isn't just part of a business cycle. Many manufacturing jobs, for instance, have been offshored with little expectation of coming back.

Summer of Recovery: The "Dewey defeats Truman" of 2010 economic predictions. If this term ever started to catch on, it was quickly eclipsed when the economy fizzled as federal stimulus jobs and U.S. census jobs dried up in the fall.

Wikileaks: A nonprofit media organization that says it's dedicated to providing a secure and anonymous way for independent sources around the world to leak information to the public. (We had to play this one straight or what's left of Julian Assange's enterprise might go scouring for our secret documents.)

Compiled by Times staff

2010 adds its own terminology to business lexicon 12/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, December 23, 2010 7:36pm]
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