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Last word

Robotic model struts her stufft crunch, and the use of language contributes to this process. The oxymoronic phrase toxic asset has been much in the news of late, with the Obama administration's announcement of a plan to encourage investors to buy up bad debts such as sub-prime mortgage loans. The term appears to absolve banks of their mistakes by suggesting these were good things (assets) that have gone bad. It is not a completely new expression, having been apparently first used by British economist, Sir Howard Davies, in 2002. Other terms include troubled assets, as in the US government's "Troubled Asset Relief Plan" (TARP) of 2008, or distressed loans. Toxic assets are now being restyled legacy assets – which basically means they were acquired before a certain date – thus eradicating any obvious negative overtones. This verbal massaging is clearly an attempt to encourage buyers. No one in their right mind would think of investing in something toxic, but buying into a legacy – how could you go wrong?

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