I’d Like to Buy a Vowel

Last night, I went to a cocktail party on the humid terrace of the Maritime Hotel, in Chelsea. Nouriel Roubini, the host and the subject of a profile I wrote for The New Republic, floated around what he called “a smart, finance-oriented crowd,” explaining his latest prediction: a W-shaped recovery, like what we saw in the 1930s. This latest bounce in the stock market, he says, is nothing but a sucker’s rally. Sometime at the end of 2010, we may see a second dip — thus the W shape.

Interesting, this. Roubini originally went against the optimists, who said it would be a short, V-shaped recession; it would, he said, look more like a U. Then things got really, really bad and he changed his mind: a prolonged L-shaped recession. Then things improved a bit, and he went back to U. Now he’s toying with a W.

Clearly, this is a fluid, evolving situation, but this pin-balling around the alphabet is, to me, only the latest, most funny explanatory crutch in a field chock-full of helpful, meaning-killing clich├ęs. In any case, SmartMoney offers a good explanation for the different shapes, though they leave out the hypotheticals I’d most like to see: a Q, say, or a B.

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