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I struggle on how to use the word “contagion” in a sentence that I want to construct; and I cannot seem to find what I am looking for elsewhere.

In economics you can use a term such as

default contagion

Which essentially means that in a group of companies that are owned by the same parent company, it is contagious to the rest of the companies if one goes into default. That is if one company defaults the rest of the companies are hit by ‘default contagion’, meaning from a risk perspective they are all defaulted.

The sentence that I am struggling to put together is something like:

Company A is not really at risk because it “contagioned” the default rating from Company B

I don’t know the grammar of contagion, so I am not sure which word to put in instead of “contagioned”. I don’t want to use “caught” because I would then need to follow up with something like “..due to default contagion” and I want to keep it short (and readers already understand the concept). Obviously I can reconstruct/rephrase the entire sentence - but that is not what I am after. Just curious about which word/conjugation would be correct to replace “contagioned” with - if such exists; or if the entire phrase is not how anyone would ever say it?

Hope my question makes sense.

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Your question makes sense, and I also had some trouble using "contagion" in a sentence. I was helped by some of the examples in the dictionary, which mirror what you want to say:

Brazil's stock markets were battered by contagion from the problems in other emerging markets.

The planned mega-merger was intended to fortify the industry against financial contagion.

Given contagion is a noun that means "infection from direct contact", you could say something like:

Contagion from the underperforming Company B has negatively affected the credit rating of Company A, even though it is not really at risk.

or

Company A is not really at risk, although its credit rating has been downgraded due to contagion from Company B.

"Contagion" has no verb. You can be infected by a contagion, or protect against a contagion, but you can't be "contagioned".

Company A's credit rating has been infected by contagion from Company B, even though A is not really at risk.

Alternately you could use the adjective contagious; however this does not automatically reference the economic use of the term.

The negative credit rating of Company B proved contagious, as the credit rating of Company A was similarly downgraded, even though it is not at risk.

  • This is a good answer. I think it would be even better if you pointed out the related verb "contaminate". – Tashus Nov 14 '18 at 15:48
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    @Tashus Point noted, but a "contaminant" is not the same as a "contagion". Moreover the term "contagion" apparently has a fairly specific meaning as Economics jargon. I don't think it's an accurate substitute. – Andrew Nov 14 '18 at 15:50
  • Contaminate is actually the word I was looking for in my mind - but I agree that the use is probably not completely correct. I would probably not use infected in terms of economics. I like the phrase with “due to contagion by”. – ssn Nov 14 '18 at 16:39
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    @ssn If you want to use "contaminate" then there are many variations: blacken, besmirch, blemish, stain, taint, tarnish, pollute, poison, soil, befoul, sully, and vitiate, among others. Each has a slightly different nuance, but in my opinion some work better in this context than "contaminate". In an Economics journal I don't know if I would use "infect" either, but it should be fine in a periodical like the Wall Street Journal, as long as you intend the negative connotations. – Andrew Nov 14 '18 at 16:48
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Contagious is a noun and it does not have a verb form, so contagioned is not correct (nor would you be using the word correctly, even if it did exist - the contagion belongs to the sick thing, so if anything could contagion something else, it would be the sick Company B that contagioned healthy Company A).

As for what to replace it with, it depends on how loosely you can use the contagion metaphor. You might be able to say:

"Company A is not really at risk because it contracted/was infected by Company B's default rating."

You say your audience is familiar with the concept of default contagion, but are they so familiar that you could stretch the medical metaphor like this? I have no idea.

  • Both ‘contracted’ and ‘inflected’ I would probably not use when speaking about this. I feel like the sound like something that cannot be “reversed” so to say - where it in fact is just “affected by”, and the actual risk needs to be assessed. If that made sense? – ssn Nov 14 '18 at 16:41

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