It’s Zeitgeist, the word of the moment, and seems to be in use a great deal across the channel in the U of K. In context, it’s use seems to consistently accompany a justification for the slashing of public expenditure. “The age of austerity” has been introduced to the vernacular and there’s even a wikipedia entry* to help you decipher the meaning of this, until now, unfamiliar word.

Given the way the British government and financial media present this adjective you would be given for thinking that it is a byword for “prudence” or “fiscal responsibility”, but you’d be wrong.

The literal  meaning of “austere” is far from being so cosy: “dry, harsh, sour, tart”; and “austerity” well …

  1. Sourness and harshness to the taste.
  2. Severity of manners or life; extreme rigour or strictness; harsh discipline.
  3. Freedom from adornment; plainness; severe simplicity.

The age of spin is not dead it seems.

*though as yet no-one has written a wiki-dictionary entry for “austerity measure” [here’s my suggestion: A way of spinning massive cuts in public expenditure to make it sound less painful than it actually is; normally used to confound the less well educated – thereby reducing the likelihood of strikes, riots and general public unrest. NB: translates as “severity” in Greek]

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