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I came across a Japanese person using "Lehman shock" when writing English, and I'd like to know what the most common American English term is. Do Americans use the term "Global Financial Crisis"? Or do they more commonly use the term Great Recession?

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    Technically, "both terms are common" isn't an answer, but I think it's more useful to say that than to talk about which term is more common, especially since not everyone uses the terms synonymously. In particular, people argue over the definition of recession. – snailcar Mar 17 '13 at 10:51
  • @snailplane mu is a perfectly acceptable answer! – Andrew Grimm Mar 17 '13 at 22:04
  • I'm not sure when it changed over, but the common term for the current recession started off mainly being referred to as "The Credit Crunch" in both the UK and the US. – Matt Mar 26 '13 at 4:09
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Great Recession is a clever pun, a play on words, an attempt to compare the current recession with the economic woes of the Great Depression, which, at least in the U.S., began with the stock market crash of 1929, and ended during World War II.

I don't think it would be right to call great recession a "common term" – it's more like an easy rhyme. Have a look for yourself to see how "common" the expression is.

Given that the nation's economy still hasn't completely pulled out of its doldrums, I think it's too early to say how historians will officially label these lean economic times. There was the S&L crisis of the 80's and 90's, and the dot-com bubble in the late 1990's – those are pretty much established terms. If I had to venture a capital guess on what this current recession might be known as in the future, I might speculate on the Mortgage Crisis, since that seems to be the most-pointed-to trigger event. The Great Recession might turn out to be an enduring historical name, but it also wouldn't surprise me if the "Great Recession" label was eventually shelved as a cute nickname, one that might be applied to some other global recession, sometime in the future.

As Jim pointed out, a Wikipedia article links to the term Great Recession, but I'm not convinced that name will have stuck 10 years from now. The name of an historical event can evolve as we view it more retrospectively. There was a time when World War I was called The Great War; it didn't make sense to call it World War I before there was a second world war, and it didn't make sense to call it "The Great War" after World War II. WWI was even known for a time as "the war to end all wars," but that nickname didn't stick for very long either, for rather obvious reasons.

  • I'm not sure that ngram is the most useful source of information, since you're only looking at books published through 1970, about 38 years before the Great Recession happened...! – Tiercelet Sep 19 '14 at 4:17
  • @Tiercelet - Nice catch! I've fixed the link (and the Ngram hasn't changed much). – J.R. Sep 19 '14 at 9:11
  • Thanks! Though I think the limits of Ngram's year range are going to cause a problem here; the GFC didn't really happen until 2008, which is the top range the viewer will support, so I think we just won't have any data from that source. – Tiercelet Sep 19 '14 at 16:01

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