According to Monday’s Wall Street Journal, financial analysts have a new “buzz word” specifically designed to describe declining profitability.  Analagous to “incremental,” of course, “decremental” refers to a slow but continuing losses of value.  What is going on here? Why do we need  a new word?

Frankly, I don’t think we do, but “decremental” sounds softer, gentler, less extreme than “collapse,”  so much better even than “erosion” or “decline.”  Declines can be steep and frightening, and the fact is that stock values — along with profitabilty, employment, valuations, etc. etc. — have been in a steep decline, a very steep decline.

“Decremental” softens the blow by implying a gradual and slow process.  It is reassuring, implying even a soft landing.  “Decremental” losses do not lead to Black Mondays, certainly not to panics or stampedes.  And it sounds vaguely technical, objective, almost scientific. Analysts who use such terms can appear to be above the fray, knowing more than the rest of us.

Suffering “decremental” losses feels better than being where we actually are, facing an uncertain future, frightened, angry, unable to plan.