From Grexit to Grimbo: A guide to the strange lingo used to describe the Greek debt crisis

Markets Associated Press

Greece's debt crisis has spawned its own awkward argot. For those in the know, clunky terms like "Grexit" are shorthand, a quick way of saving a bundle of words. For everybody else, they're as mysterious as hieroglyphs.

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Wall Street types and economists have been wrestling with language to explain Greece's crisis since it started more than five years ago. First came the strained metaphors. Greece, the birthplace of drama, was the setting for a three-act tragedy. Now, it seems like every new twist in the story gets the prefix "Gr" slapped on it.

Why is this happening? People working in finance like to boil down ungainly phrases. The Federal Reserve's effort to spur economic growth, known as quantitative easing to academics, became QE. The second round was christened QE2.

Social media sites egg the process on. On Twitter, a bunch of words crammed together with a hash mark make messages easier to find. It's not the Greek crisis anymore, just #grisis.

"It's part of the gallows humor that the financial world is fond of," says Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. "Sticking a 'gr' in front of a word makes it slightly amusing."

Confused by the latest lingo? Here's a handy guide to the growing lexicon:

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GREXIT: Made by combining Greece with exit. Used when discussing the possibility that Greece could choose to drop the euro instead of acceding to demands for more budget cuts from its European creditors. This word is guaranteed to draw at least a few blank looks if said aloud. But it's shorter than saying "Greece's departure from the group of 19 countries that share a single currency, the euro."

GREXIDENT: An accidental Grexit. A default or a bank run could wind up forcing Greece to quit using the euro, even if it wanted to keep it.

GREFERENDUM: Arguably the silliest of the bunch, created by adding the G from Greece to referendum. Took off on Twitter, when Greece's prime minister called for the public to vote on the terms offered by the country's lenders in exchange for more loans. Greek voters delivered a loud "No" on Sunday, opening up the latest stretch of uncertainty.

GRIMBO: So does that vote mean Greece is going to be in or out of the currency union? At the moment, say Citigroup economists, they're sitting somewhere in between. And since we're talking about Greece, it's not limbo but "Grimbo." Good grief.