In fact so widely used is this term that it could form the basis for a new Christmas board game. And let’s face it that 1993 version of Trivial Pursuit at the back of your cupboard is a bit out of date. So here’s how the new game might work.
Topical financial disasters of choice are written on pieces of paper: Woolworths, MFI, Ireland. You choose. Remember that some players may be too young to remember older recessions, so Rumbelows or Presto may not be a wise choice.
Once you’ve got your topics, players choose one at random and have one minute to explain it to the others without using the word in question.
The player who successfully explains the most topics receives the “bail-out fund”. This is decided on by players at the start of the game and could be a bar of chocolate, your tipple of choice or a polite round of applause if you’re playing the austerity version.
I accept that this game may not be to everyone’s taste. It isn’t exactly the cheeriest game to play at what is supposed to be a time of general happiness and good tidings. And explaining the background to the Irish banking crisis after copious amounts of food and wine may not be wise. So the idea itself may be going down the pan even as I’m writing this. We do indeed live in troubled times.
But the French phrase, used to describe a company in trouble or going bankrupt, actually predates the current crisis.
In fact the term “aller à vau” dates back to the 12th century and literally means to “go down the valley”. And so “aller à vau-l’eau” is “to follow the water down the valley”. Rather similar to “going down the pan” but more picturesque.
And so good luck to those who decide to give the game a try. And if for some strange reason you get bored, dig Monopoly out from the back of the cupboard. Buy three hotels on Park Lane and give your fellow players their very own financial crisis in the comfort of your/their living room. Enjoy!