Friday, 17 February 2012

Deft phrases

Lehman's was not thought to be 'too big to fail'. It was, after all, not particularly big. Our undoing lay in its interconnectedness. Now Greece is clearly seen as something of a minnow, but the world's leaders have learnt about 'contagion' and have been busily erecting 'firewalls'. Is our phraseology still smarter than our thought?

Firewall needed
The impression made by Greek fire on the west European Crusaders was such that the name was applied to any sort of incendiary weapon, including those used by Arabs, the Chinese, and the Mongols. These, however, were different mixtures and not the Byzantine formula, which was a closely guarded state secret whose composition has now been lost. As a result, to this day its ingredients remain a matter of much speculation and debate, with proposals including naphtha, quicklime, sulphur, and niter. Byzantine use of incendiary mixtures was also distinguished by their employment of pressurized siphons to project the liquid onto the enemy.