A sell-sider told me recently, "no matter how complex the product, if you can come up with a snappy name, you can sell it." (See also: CPDOs). That has certainly been the case with emerging markets, a phrase coined nearly 30 years ago by Antoine Van Agtmael. The financier, at the time an economist at the World Bank, wanted to woo investors who might otherwise have been put-off by the unwieldy "less economically developed countries" or the politically-charged "Third World".
More recently, the general tactic to selling emerging markets as an asset class seems to have been to come up with ever snappier brand names.
Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neill famously dubbed Brazil, Russia, India and China the Bric nations. In so doing, he managed to closely affiliate four countries as different from each other as CPDOs were from C-3PO.
There is now an industry devoted to flogging BRICs, and the conference organisers, publishers, talking heads and fund managers who enthusiastically trade on the name owe a debt of grattitude to Goldman and O'Neill.
The success of the term Brics, like "emerging markets" before it, has encouraged the development of a host of other acronyms.
There's Civets, first used in April 2010 by Michael Geoghegan, chief executive of HSBC, to collectively refer to Colombia, India, Vietnam, Turkey and South Africa. Sane, for Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria and Egypt, has been floating around since at least 2006. And let's not forget the infamous Piigs, for the more-or-less troubled economies of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.
While there are drawbacks to using a term such as Piigs -- not least of which is that it is wildly unpopular with the citizens of the countries to which it refers -- even the seemingly innocuous "emerging markets" has come to be seen as démodé and even patronising.
The phrase is démodé, because by more than a few metrics - including per capita income - some so-called emerging markets are more advanced than their western peers. The US, which likes to think of itself as the most developed of nations, consistently ranks lower than China on measures of its citizens' profiency in mathematics and science. Indeed, in October, Chinese engineers built the fastest supercomputer in the world -- much to the dismay (and shock) of their American peers.
It can also be a patronising term, because as financial professionals in these economies are fond of pointing out, their infrastructure (think airports and public transportation) put their crumbling counterparts at JFK, Charles de Gaulle or the London Underground to shame.
This is not to say that emerging markets are necessarily bastions of technological progress or human flourishing. Brazil might be the economic powerhouse of Latin America, but it is also home to tens of millions of favela dwellers and has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
But it is true that by an increasing number of benchmarks, these emerging markets look more developed than not.
This calls for a spot of brand re-evaluation. So here's a suggestion: replace "emerging" with "tilt", to better reflect the reality that economic and financial power is tilting away from the US and Europe and toward Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and yes, even Africa.
Tilt markets - how's that for snappy?
Stacy-Marie Ishmael is the editor of FT Tilt. Email her on email@example.com. If you're into such things, you can (request to...) follow her on Twitter - she's @s_m_i.