The cliché: "Excuse us while we interrupt your regularly scheduled doom and gloom," Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal wrote yesterday. He was cheekily reporting some positive trends in the construction industry, contrasting them with the overwhelmingly poor news in stock markets. But forget stock markets, he could have just as easily been referring to the regularly scheduled instances readers will encounter that phrase--"doom and gloom"--in the news this week. After all, as the Houston Chronicle reported Friday, a "parade of doom, gloom pushes Dow down 500 points." Nelson Schwartz at The New York Times says, "To be sure, not everyone on Wall Street was calling for doom and gloom." And Liz Farmer at The Washington Examiner writes, "A new report by Delta Associates says the federal governments budget tightening wont result in the doom-and-gloom scenario some economists are predicting."
Where it's from: The words doom and gloom (or gloom and doom) first began appearing together in 19th century newspapers, according to phrases.org. They almost always referred to bad news in business or markets and remained an idiom almost exclusively within those sectors until the 1950s when the popular musical Finnian's Rainbow featured a leprechaun character who often repeated "doom and gloom." ("I told you that gold could only bring you doom and gloom," he cautioned then, an investing tip that many would disagree with these days!) The musical's popular film adaption continued to bring the phrase into the mainstream and soon news reports began applying to politics and general news as well.
Why it's catching on: Most immediately, there's a whole lot of bad news out there this week. Most of the "gloomy" news of late is related directly to the economy so, given the phrase's origins in the business sector, we can't help but call this an appropriate time for the cliché to reassert itself. Add in big downers like the death of 22 SEALs in Afghanistan or the general disillusionment with America's political system, and you can see why doom and gloom are appearing everywhere.
Why else? Perhaps it's just us, but this phrase has always seemed to cast a whimsical spin on the sorry news reports to which it's applied, probably because it rhymes. It's worth noting that much of the time it appears when news reports are trying to distract us from the bad news, or draw our attention to good news, as when Business Insider "interrupts" our "doom and gloom" or when analysts tell The New York Times that it's not all doom and gloom on Wall Street. Or maybe the limerick-like tone struck in reports on the economy reflects the opinions of some analysts who are cautioning us against taking the market dips too seriously. Either way, we can't blame the media for searching for a bit of whimsy, if only in their language, when reporting on a distinctly un-whimsical news cycle.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.