financial "bubble"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 28 11:43:26 UTC 2013

My latest Wall St. Journal column (and Word Routes follow-up) is on
"bubble" in the financial sense:

Many sources give Jonathan Swift's "Bubble" poem (written Dec. 1720,
published Jan. 1721) as the first cite. I traced it back a year
earlier, to a Dec. 1719 item in Nathaniel Mist's Weekly Journal likely
written by Daniel Defoe. Also, in an update to the Word Routes column,
there's a 1700 cite for "speculative bubble" from Ned Ward that should
probably also count, even though it's a couple of decades before the
South Sea and Mississippi bubbles that Swift and Defoe wrote about.

I spoke about the history of the term on WNYC's "Leonard Lopate Show" yesterday:


Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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