Big news stories, especially scandals, often generate a variety of nonce words. Some survive, like the –gate suffix of the Watergate scandal, others disappear into the mists of history. The Enron Scandal is no different. It’s generated a plethora of nonce terms and phrases, or Enronyms, if you will.
The most famous of these, perhaps, is the verb to Enron, coined by Senator Tom Daschle in a CNN interview on 23 January of this year. Comparing the Enron employees’ loss of their pensions to Republican raiding of the Social Security trust fund, Daschle said, “I don’t want to Enron the people of the United States. I don’t want to see them holding the bag at the end of the day just like Enron employees have held the bag.”
In response, Minority Leader Trent Lott responded that he didn’t want to “Daschleize” the budget—meaning to raise taxes.
But Daschle wasn’t the first to verb the name of the company. Several weeks earlier, on 6 January, Waldo Proffitt of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote, “It seems to me an absolute necessity for Congress to pass a law to keep employees of other companies from having their 401K plans Enronized.”
Credit for this trend in nonce nomenclature goes to Ty Meighan of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Way back on 15 December of last year he wrote, “some described the University of Texas football loss to Colorado—and a chance at the national championship—as a failure of Enronian proportion.”
Meighan beats out Ian McDonald of TheStreet.com by two days. McDonald coined Enronitis to describe the stock market’s reaction to Enron’s fall.
Dubious accounting practices have been dubbed Enronomics, a term coined by Eric Scigliano in Seattle Weekly on 3 January: “Kenneth Lay, huddled with Vice President Cheney to draft a national energy policy based on the same Enronomics as its own disastrous business strategy.” And those who practice Enronomics have been dubbed Enronistas, by the Richmond Times-Dispatch (17 January).
Jim Sullivan of The Boston Globe describes the failure of Tina Brown’s Talk magazine as Enronish (22 January).
Then of course, there are the puns. Unsurprisingly, leading the way was the tabloid New York Post, which on 1 December 2001 ran a headline, “The Enron-Around.”
Cheryl Glaser of Minnesota Public Radio describes close relationships between corporations and the government as Enronic (30 January). Glaser is following in the footsteps of Paul Solman of the Newshour with Jim Lehrer who suggests take the money and Enron (25 January). And obviously someone who illegally cuts corners is making an End-ron. This last is courtesy Paul Zielbauer of the New York Times on 3 February.
But what about the name that started it all? Where does the name Enron come from? The name was coined in 1986 for the new corporation formed by the merger of Houston Natural Gas and the Omaha, Nebraska-based InterNorth. Enron was chosen over the other option of Interron.
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton