On BRICs and broken boxes


Adam Greenfield takes issue with the recently coined abbreviation BRIC, which arbitrarily lumps together the peoples of Brazil, Russia, India and China into a single multi-billion-sized unit.

Terms like this are:

antimatter to clarity of insight, or more accurately, some malignant linguistic equivalent of ice-nine: to drop one of them into a sentence is not merely to cast doubt on the acuity of one’s own mental processes, it’s to poison the entire discussion that follows and therefore includes the term by reference.

… which, I think, is beautifully put. Unlike Adam, I can’t resist the temptation to invoke Orwell’s Politics and the English language on occasion.

“Out of the box” used to get me too, but I’m now fully innoculated thanks to the last paragraph of a 2002 New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell. Discussing Enron he concluded:

They were there looking for people who had the talent to think outside the box. It never occurred to them that, if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing.

Can’t help smiling every time I hear the phrase.

2 thoughts on “On BRICs and broken boxes

  1. I don’t know that I agree with your assessment of the term BRIC. They are of course different countries. So are the countries of Latin America, or the countries of Africa, or the English-speaking world for that matter. It doesn’t mean that you can’t combine them conceptually and then use that concept to compare them.

    I’m planning to do just that — take a trip that helps me learn more about the similarities and differences between them. Check out my trip blog at http://www.brictour.blogspot.com.

  2. Wow! Thanks for the comment, and good luck with the trip. I guess my discomfort with the term BRIC comes when it’s used to indiscriminately lump together the populations of those four countries into one homogenised mass of consumers. To make pronouncements on, say, the needs of Russians based on evidence from Brazil. On the other hand, it sounds like you have decided to get to know each of the countries more intimately, which is a much more profitable course of action. Can’t wait to see what you find, and what the term BRIC measns to you when you get back. Regards, Matt

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