Spare us this Euro Newspeak

The German expression for “bailout funds” is “euro emergency parachute”. An easy way to grasp the complexities of Eurozone financial mechanisms, but a metaphor running out of steam, argues columnist Axel Hacke.

Published on 7 October 2011 at 14:59

Browsing I came across an article from some time ago. From it, a beautiful sentence leapt up: “At top speed, Ireland has finally rushed in under the emergency parachute for ailing eurozone nations.”

Strange: have I not always instinctively associated the euro bailout funds with the image of ​​a parachute that the euro is strapped to as it drifts at leisure to the ground, saved from free-fall? But how can one actually “slip in” under such a parachute, and this at “top speed”, no less? Does it even make sense to think of the “rescue” as one carried out by parachute? Such a parachute only brakes the fall. It doesn’t prevent it. The euro will end up sprawled on the ground in any event, and that's just what no one wants.

So what, then, is the “emergency parachute”? Towards the end of summer, there naturally come to mind those umbrellas for hire that shade the beaches of southern Europe, next to comfortable recliners. But this cannot be what an “emergency parachute” really suggests – that it will steer those strapped into it to a soft landing on the sand.

So really, the emergency parachute turns out to be an umbrella, which is shown in the many ways of putting it. Everywhere one hears that the “shield” will be “put up”, “set up”, “put in place”, and that it’s “standing”. I just read that Ireland didn’t exactly “slip under” the emergency parachute back then, but rather – as reported on the website of the Österreichischen Rundfunks (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) – “crept” there. Now, that can only mean Ireland was either very tired, or very abject, or that the emergency parachute was very low.

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A keg without a bottom

And so the report from FAZ that “Barroso is after a bigger euro emergency umbrella” seems to make sense. The emergency umbrella ought to be expanded, stretched a little more, made more flexible, strengthened. Right in the middle of the torrential downpour, the emergency umbrella will be re-stitched! The Financial Times Deutschland informs us that it will be “raised higher”.

According to the Hannoverscher Allgemeiner Zeitung, Ireland has, incidentally, “betaken itself to the emergency umbrella.” Or was it rather, as the Manager-Magazin announced, “Europe stretches out the emergency umbrella for Ireland”? So initially, Ireland was supposedly just standing there, and this ‘umbrella’ was politely raised over the country. Actually, the umbrella was practically all but whipped over Ireland.

Why can such occurrences not be explained unambivalently? That was almost a year ago – and what that emergency parachute is capable of! And what not! “The new emergency parachute” is actually “a keg without a bottom”, writes die Welt. It is “a significant safety net,” according to the website of a bank, a “germ cell” (where was that again?). Indeed, in the Tagesanzeiger I read that it’s been “all wrapped up, under the roof and in the box”.

Speech-rescue umbrella

But just between us: why do you need an emergency parachute or umbrella under a roof and in a box? It should “not get any bigger”, broadcasts N24, the TV station, which in turn is a good thing, under a roof and in a box as it is. It has “leapt the last remaining implementation hurdles,” writes a Liechtenstein financial institution in one of its communications. You can also cry for help to the emergency parachute, writes the Wiener Zeitung. Indeed, “sooner or later, a cry for help to the emergency parachute is arguably inevitable.”

Oh, really? Help! Mayday to all! Now an emergency parachute is stretching out over the German language itself! Hand out language credits to journalists at no charge! Snap up misleading figurative language! Put up the speech-rescue umbrella, let it stand, stretch it out! Lean it out further, make it more flexible and tougher! And let’s all slip underneath it. Creep. Let’s “betake ourselves” under it, at top speed. It’s an emergency. Otherwise, out here in the open, one may just get laid flat by the hail of metaphors and left a corpse sprawled over the implementation hurdles.

In the information service of a bank I have read something about the expectations for the period after 2013, “when the emergence parachute should be reeled in”.

Should be reeled in? They probably mean “closes up”. I can hardly wait.

Translated from the German by Anton Baer

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