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Strictly speaking | BOOMLET

In the wake of the Brexit referendum and economic pessimism in Britain, an optimistic commentator in the EU-based Politico was forecasting a boomlet for financial consultants and lobbyists in London and Brussels. A boomlet? Is that a ‘real’ word or creative journalism for a small spurt in economic growth? In fact, boomlet has had a century of use, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online, as shown in one of its earliest citations (from 1897): “During the recent West Australian boom – or, as some of my stock exchange friends prefer to call it ‘boomlet’ …” But since then the word has sputtered into life in the OED’s records only sporadically, being otherwise sustained on the lips of stock exchange specialists. Its structure (boom + -let) is obvious enough, though out of context you may wonder whether the root word is boom, meaningthunderous sound’ i.e. boooom! or ‘economic growth’. The diminutive suffix ‘-let’ goes better with the second sense, though there’s a slight sense of the ‘damp squib’ about the economic boomlet. The Oxford (1902) notes that -let was the favourite 19th-century diminutive for forming nonce-words, freely generating examples such as courtlet, crownlet, dukelet, hooklet, jokelet, keylet – all of which have disappeared without a trace. Boomlet has survived, but remains so uncommon that it still looks like a freshly coined word.

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