Words-worth proposition

This is a favourite in business and the professions, including the oldest. From the Latin propositio, meaning 'statement', it arrived in English in the 14th century in various religious uses, taking on its modern meaning - an offer - in Shakespeare's time.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Its main business meaning is American and dates from the early 20th century: a commercial opportunity. It received a boost in the 1950s when Rosser Reeves, head copywriter at new ad agency Ted Bates, identified the Unique Selling Proposition: an offer that the consumer won't get elsewhere. The 'value proposition', favoured by business theorists like Michael Porter and Kaplan and Norton, is about working out what your product or organisation offers to specific customer groups. But an individual can be a proposition too. If you're in charge of recruitment, you might wish to 'proposition' a 'good proposition', but proceed with care. The verb has, since the 1930s, been more closely associated with the street corner than with the boardroom.


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