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crunch creep

noun [uncountable] informal

the unexpected social and economic consequences of the economic recession

'Crunch Creep – Strange, tangential and often unlikely events laid at the door of the credit crunch … Sales of fine-blend teas are dropping as cost-conscious Brits turn back to the traditional comforts of Builder's Tea …'

BBC News 18th March 2009

In July 2008, the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's reported that sales of Tupperware (durable plastic) containers were up. Conversely, sales of takeaway ready meals were down … Okay, it doesn't take a genius to work out what's going on there. In these turbulent economic times, that extra investment in quick-fix catering is detrimental to the bank balance. We need to save cash by preparing food ourselves, and when we do, we'll need some kind of storage, whether it's to put portions of curry in the freezer or to transport our lunchtime sandwiches to the office.

Of course the MD's of Tupperware companies might do quite well out of this, but the point is this: quite apart from those multi-millionaire executives worrying about bonuses and pension plans, there's the rest of us, those ordinary folk on the street who are changing their habits and preoccupations because we're strapped for cash. And when we do, there's a knock-on effect: this is where credit crunch morphs into crunch creep.

chocolate company Cadbury's has reported a rise in profits – when times are hard, people need their chocolate fix

Crunch creep is a tongue-in-cheek expression coined to refer to some of the more unpredictable social and economic side-effects of the economic recession. Money really does make our world go around, and so when it's in limited supply, we have to think of new ways of living our lives. Since July 2008, the BBC have been monitoring crunch creep, reporting a variety of social and economic anomalies that can be attributed to the credit crunch. Some of the more notable instances of crunch creep include:

  • Chocolate company Cadbury's has reported a rise in profits – when times are hard, people need their chocolate fix.
  • More people in the UK are losing their hair (i.e. hair recovery products have enjoyed a boom in sales).
  • Airlines are reducing the weight of passenger meals, cutlery and trolleys, in an attempt to save fuel by making the aircraft 'lighter'.
  • There has been a rise in the theft of fruit and vegetables from allotments.
  • Britain is heading for a baby boom as couples are forced to entertain themselves at home. Sales of maternity dresses are up.
  • The average amount left by the 'tooth fairy' has dropped from £1.22 to 87p.
  • The Queen wore outfits she had worn before on a state visit to Slovenia and Slovakia.
  • People are 'dumping' pets, especially high-maintenance ones like horses. Domestic chickens, on the other hand, have never been so popular.

Background – the credit crunch of the economic recession

The expression crunch creep first appeared in 2008 in connection with a BBC blog feature exploring the effects of the credit crunch. Like credit crunch before it, it exploits the phonic impact of the repeated 'cr' sound at the beginning of the two component words, a phenomenon known as alliteration.

Crunch creep is based on a combination of credit crunch, now used as a catch-all expression in relation to the economic recession, and use of the word creep as featured in a number of expressions relating to unexpected or undesirable side effects. These include mission creep, which refers to the expansion of a project beyond its original goals, especially where this has negative consequences, season creep, which describes seasonal shifts caused by global climate change, and Christmas creep referring to the tendency for Christmas products, decorations and advertising to be displayed earlier each year.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 26th August 2009.

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