‘Green Shoots’ Must Go—Cue the ‘Groundhogs!’

The term “green shoots,” which sprang into the lexicon during the recession of the early 1990s, is back like a weed. Readers agree it must be stomped out.

Panda bear
Panda bear

“Green Shoots right from the get-go made me think of the Chia Pet, or better, the Chia Head — mainly because it's a sprout that is growing out of a hollow base,” one investment banker wrote in. “[T]here's nothing in the base to support it long term,” he explained.

In our highly unscientific poll, 74 percent of the respondents agreed: saying, “Yes, we’re sick of the term!” Just 20 percent voted “No,” they weren’t sick of it, and 5.5 percent weren’t sure of their position on the term.

We turned to readers to come up with a new term to replace “green shoots.”

It should be duly noted that it’s a lot easier to rant about how obnoxious — and factually incorrect — the term is, than to come up with a new term! You want to convey “less bad” news and “glimmers of hope” in the economy without conveying that any actual growth has begun.

(Click here to read my initial rant on green shoots.)

Still, readers wrote in by the dozens, giving it their best shot to come up with a new term and spray weed killer on these pesky "green shoots" for good.

You would not believe the number of No. 2 references. As in [Your synonym for excrement here] Shoots.

I’m not going to indulge much of this bathroom humor, except for Nathan Vasey, who wrote in with “meadow muffins.”

“We could say the market has dropped meadow muffins in hopes of a strong recovery,” Vasey explained.

“I like bamboo roots,” writes Mike Larko, “because bamboo roots grow underground for 3 to 5 years before they start breaking ground and shooting for the sky!”

Stephen in Peoria, Ariz. had a good one: “Hope buds.”

And John Rongner from Wisconsin looked to the sky, offering up: “Breaks in the clouds.”


It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s John from Corning, NY, who wrote in with “dingers,” another term for home run.

Points for creativity there, John, but if we’re going with the baseball analogy, it might be better to say, “line drive,” which is a ball that is close to the ground, and often results in extra bases, but could go either way for the team.

Sticking with the sports theme, Glyn Caddell in New York suggests “veronica,” a term that comes from bull fighting and means “a type of pass whereby the cape is drawn over the bull’s head while the bullfighter holds a posture.”

“This seems more relevant,” Caddell writes, “since the flashes of a bull market are just that and not a full blown recovery.”

The bull-market inference is good but that term may be too obscure for the masses.

Another entry from the obscure pile was “auroral arcs,” sent in by Walt Lind in Houston. Auroral arcs are “Pretty lights at night that don’t make the day any better,” Lind quips.

Sticking with the light theme, reader Edward McKee suggested “a lighter shade of gray,” which is subtle, but perhaps brilliant in its simplicity.

As in: “New home sales were nearly flat last month, a lighter shade of gray than we’ve seen in the economy in the past year.” It would make an easy transition to “The housing picture is brightening” when the recovery really starts to take hold. And a really good indicator could be a “burst of sunshine.”

Perhaps my favorite, which gets points for both creativity and accuracy is “groundhogs,” sent in by a reader who goes by the moniker “Mr. Shockadelic.”

Sometimes the groundhog sees his shadow, meaning six more weeks of economic winter, and somtimes he doesn't, which means — get ready for spring!

And, just a few from the ridiculous pile to make you giggle: “Free-market flash mobs (not yet financial critical mass, now just having random pillow fights),” “Portabella Precursors,” “Bloomin’ Onions,” “Venus Fly (Investor) Traps” and Dan O’Sullivan’s doozy: “Primordial Toxic Assets Flavored Soup.”

One reader said we’ll know the economy is back on track when there are “Less cars for sale on the front lawn.”

Ha! You can't argue with that.

[Cue the “Sanford & Son” music.]

Now it’s time for you to decide — Click on the poll above to vote for your favorite term to replace “green shoots!”

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