The obscure word of the week is goods

This week’s obscure English word is goods. But – but, you say, that’s not obscure. Actually, it is. Let me explain.

In economics, ‘goods’ refers to something real that’s tradable or exchangeable. Back when I was editing and publishing economic papers and journals, I always kept correcting economists who referred to ‘a good’, when trying to describe a single class of item that’s tradable or exchangeable, such as turnips (not ‘a turnip’, but ‘turnips’, plural – hence ‘turnips are a good’.) The problem is that the term ‘a good’ actually refers to something beneficient, as in ‘free money is for the public good’. The economic word ‘goods’, strictly speaking, has no singular form – it is always a plural. Imagine a freight train with a load of turnips on board and nothing else. Do we call it a ‘good train’, because it’s only carrying turnips? Of course not.

What my former colleagues needed to say was ‘a turnip is a type of goods’, or ‘turnips are a type of goods’. Sometimes, more words can be better than trying to keep word count constrained: they avoid grammatical death-traps.

Your challenge: write a sentence or two in the comments using ‘goods’ in this sense. For bonus credit, include the word ‘turnip’.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2021