profiteer = 'make any kind of profit'

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Oct 14 15:29:37 UTC 2011

At 10/14/2011 04:04 AM, Damien Hall wrote:
>Heard from a BBC economics correspondent this morning; in the
>context of UK natural-gas and electricity companies, whose profits
>have all gone up hugely between the last quarter and this one:
>'[the companies say they] aren't profiteering - well, not
>profiteering excessively - from their customers'
>She was explaining that these utility companies say that their
>eight-fold increase in profits between quarters isn't a result of
>their taking advantage of customers, but of increases in the market
>prices of their fuels, which increases they have to pass on to their

I don't quite understand how an increase in costs of materials, when
passed on, must result in an increase in profits.  (An increase in
gross income, OK.)  So one could assert that they were profiteering
by adding something on beyond their increase in costs.


>The fact that the correspondent had to specify that the companies
>said they weren't profiteering _excessively_ suggests that they had
>acknowledged doing what she called 'profiteering' to an acceptable
>level - so, since the companies are unlikely to have acknowledged
>that they were profiteers in the traditional sense, the
>correspondent must be using 'profiteer' to mean simply 'make a profit'.
>This looks like semantic extension, fairly unremarkable as a
>process, but this particular instance was new on me, and doesn't
>feature in OED or MW online.
>Damien Hall
>University of Kent (UK)
>Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, 'Towards a New Linguistic Atlas of France'
>English Language and Linguistics, School of European Culture and Languages
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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