The best phrase to cross my radar recently?
While it’s not likely to make any word of the year lists, it struck me as a wonderful combination of sounds, and definitely a phrase worth bringing some attention to. It’s also one of those phrases that comes close to sounding like what it means.
If you’re familiar with the UK real estate market then you might already know this term, but it was new to me. As explained concisely in this short article in the Guardian, gazumping is when a seller breaks an agreement with one buyer to take a higher offer from another buyer. This would be illegal in many places, but not in the UK (where, apparently, anything goes up to the point of completing the final contract). The ethics, however, are very questionable. Sadly, it seems to have become a fairly common practice in the UK real estate market, at least in places such as London, where prices have moved up sharply recently.
Ghost gazumping takes the sleaziness a step further: instead of bailing out of an agreement for a legitimate better offer, the seller makes up a ghost offer or, worse still, simply demands that the buyer cough up more money when nothing has changed.
Ethics aside, I think ghost gazumping is a great turn of phrase. It’s so visual and surprising to the ear that I can imagine it finding its way into other areas, such as office lingo (“Our sales team ghost gazumped them and got us another 10% on the contract”) or card games (“She totally ghost gazumped me with that no-trumps bid”).
If nothing else, the very existence of ghost gazumping proves that it’s not just the Aussies who are capable of creating bizarre and lyrical new English words. Creative vocabulary is alive and well in old Blighty as well.
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NOTE: I learned of this phrase on PRI’s Marketplace Morning Report this past Monday (17 March 2014). However, the segment that explained it doesn’t seem to be available on their web site at the moment. When (or if) it becomes available, I’ll update this post so that interested readers can take a quick listen.