Words-worth: Step Change

In today's dynamic business world, announcing a mere change is not dynamic enough. What you need is a 'step change'.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Don't believe me? Listen to any cabinet minister, senior police officer or business guru and you won't have to wait long to hear it. Just don't ask what it means. In the days when we Britons invented our own cliches, every significant change was a 'sea-change'. That had a certain literary value as a quotation from Ariel in The Tempest, who sings a weird song about how a drowned man 'doth suffer a sea-change/ Into something rich and strange'. A sea-change, then, was a magical transformation. But where did step change come from? In engineering, a step change can mean a sudden alteration in some measurement; for instance, a voltage. But step changes are central to some types of American dancing, not least line-dancing. So good-bye Shakespeare, hello Shania. It's enough to break your achy-breaky heart.

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