On a panel I joined at Cass Business School about the future of emerging economies, the most ubiquitous of them, the BRICs, dominated discussion:
how  these markets compare, how they are performing, which one should be  kicked out of the club (Russia getting the most votes) and which others  are worthy of expanding the four-letter club, or getting together and  starting their own acronyms.

The father of the term himself,  Jim O’Neill, head of global economic research at Goldman Sachs, was on  the panel. He argued, perhaps not surprisingly, in favour of keeping all  the letters intact, explaining that his wife now goes by the name Mrs  BRIC. There was chatter as well, and some humour, over whether the new  group of emerging economies now being talked about was in fact the ‘Next  Eleven’ or the ‘Second Eleven’, and what the membership list should  entail.


The BRICs and the Elevenses, of course, have other company  in the economics name-game. There has been heated talk – and a backlash  – over the pejorative and not entirely inoffensive PIGS tag to describe  the debt-laden eurozone economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain  (a term Barclays Capital invented and later banned).

Meanwhile,  the CEO of HSBC – since there are not enough acronyms or abbreviations  in his job title or his company name – added to the mix by promoting the  idea of the ‘CIVETS’,  Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa . During  the panel discussion, I suggested yet another

One to describe the  racier of the frontier economies: the ‘PUMP’ countries (Places Upsetting  My Parents when I travel there), like Iraq, the subject of our special  report published with this issue. Iran,  where fDi deputy editor Spencer Anderson reported from this summer , would also make the  list, although it is already signed up to the Elevenses squad.

And  here’s where the alphabet soup gets somewhat clouded. Groupings can  become arbitrary and utilitarian (a good acronym needs a vowel, for  example, to make it pronounceable) and can lead to one-upsmanship (to  take it to the next level, why not make the next one an onomatopoeia?).  They can also be too fixed, once they have caught on, and outlast their  usefulness.

But who are we to judge? The name of our magazine is  an abbreviation, after all. 

Courtney Fingar