Who uses it: Con men and financiers
What it means: The original pyramid scheme, in which investors were promised a 40% return on their investment within 90 days. The creator, Charles Ponzi, paid off early investors with money from later investors, but the system fell apart when he ran out of new investors.
How to use it: To describe any plan that needs constant infusions of new cash to succeed.
Interestingly, searching for "Ponzi scheme" on my Britannica CD-ROM turns up no articles about Charles Ponzi, but several about Social Security.
Greetings from Montréal, which is très beau. Getting here took a little longer than I'd planned, because -- of course -- I got a little lost in western Maine. MapQuest is useless in Western Maine, where one must rely on Delorme's Gazetteer, a large blue book every Maine resident keeps in his or her car.
But I got here in time to have dinner with the radiant Claire Bea, and will have time for breakfast before turning back around. It was good to break in my new passport, and the border guard was nice enough not to laugh at the photo.
Happy birthday today to my old friend John Zimmerman, who's giving his own passport a workout these days. John, if you see this, drop a line just to say where you are, okay?