At the opening of “What’s the ROI for This Article?” Todd Wasserman points to a shift in language: The phrase “return on investment” began to grow in popularity just as the phrase “return on capital” began to lose popularity.
The word-nerd in me immediately perked up. Why would the language change if we’re still talking about pretty much the same thing—”bang for your buck,” as Wasserman says.
Alas, Wasserman notes that the reasons are “unclear.”
I looked at the Google Ngram he provided and saw that the increased usage of ROI began in the 1960s. And I couldn’t help but wonder if the shift began—at least in part—because the term “investment” was more amenable to the mood of the Sixties than the term “capital” was. As is so frequently the case, language morphs with the times.
Any bets on whether a political scientist somewhere has already written the article on this? Otherwise, there’s got to be a master’s thesis in here somewhere…