William Safire: Did Hoover use "depression" as euphemism?





Word has been bruited about that President Herbert Hoover used the word depression after the market crash of 1929 as a euphemism to avoid the more alarming panic. That does not check out. His earliest use of the word that the historian George Nash, author of a three-volume biography of Hoover, can find is in a speech in Colorado in 1928, near the end of his presidential campaign: “If you will study the consumption of meat, dairy products and fruit during the great depression and unemployment of 1920, you will find that in the necessary tightening of belts, the first economy was in the refined products of agriculture.”

After the October ’29 market crash he used the word depression on Dec. 3 of that year, and “the recent panic” two days later. In May 1930, he said, “We have been passing through one of those great economic storms which periodically bring hardship and suffering upon our people” and urged business and labor “to avoid accelerating the depression by the hardship and disarrangement of strikes and lockouts.”

“So far as I know,” Nash says, “this was the very first time Hoover publicly used the word depression to describe the current economic situation.”


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