Tonight on All Things Considered, News Analyst Daniel Schorr speculated that the Age of American Consumerism May Be Over. Though being consumers is closely tied to patriotism in our national psyche, current economic circumstances necessitate or reflect a decrease in spending that might make us, as a nation, change our tune.
But what's interesting about Schorr's analysis is the use of the word "consumption." Even though I assume there is a definition of this term that is exclusive to the field of economics, that didn't stop me from pondering the other definitions of the word and placing them in this economic context. Since I am studying 19th century literature just now and not economics, each time Schorr said "consumption," I couldn't help but think of an old-fashioned disease.
The OED confirms this sense of gloom with the tone of some other definitions of consumption: "the action or fact of consuming or destroying; destruction," "decay, wasting away, or wearing out," and "wasteful expenditure, waste." When you put it that way, it brings a whole new meaning - as Shorr hinted - to "shop til you drop."