JOPOL 5(2021)

“It’s the Economy, Stupid”: The Everyday Semantics of a Geopolitical Key Word
Cliff Goddard & Lauren Sadow

Despite its Anglo/Euro origins, there can be no doubt that ‘(the) economy’ is a key word in the discourse of global geopolitics. This study explicates the lexical/conceptual semantics of the expression in everyday English, using the NSM approach to meaning description. Unlike most dictionaries, we draw a distinction between two different senses: a “people-focussed”, experience-near sense (‘economy-1’), and a broader, more “educated” concept (‘economy-2’). Both senses can be regarded as folk concepts designating what philosopher Jeremy Bentham termed “fictitious entities” which belong to a certain mental ontology and support certain kinds of discourse. The results shed light on how and why ‘the economy’ has such a totalising power over many discourses: national, international and global.

Keywords: Economy, Natural Semantic Metalanguage (NSM), global keywords, conceptual semantics, discourse topics