Squeezed out

To be squeezed out is to be forced out by the actions of others

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Squeezed out

Today’s expression is “squeezed out.” “Squeeze out” is a phrasal verb, but we often use this in the passive voice. We say something or someone is squeezed out, or was squeezed out.

To be squeezed out is to be forced out of a place or out of a situation due to outside pressure, due to pressure or actions from others. So if you live on a remote island and rising sea levels mean you have to move—that’s not squeezed out. To use “squeezed out,” someone else has to take an action that negatively affects you.

In the 1990s and, I would say the early 2000s, there was big debate in the U.S. about big-box stores like Walmart. People said—and it was true—people said they were squeezing out small businesses. Small businesses were getting squeezed out because Walmart and other big-box stores came in and charged lower prices and had a better selection.

And people argued this was bad because ultimately the lower prices were a devil’s bargain: smaller businesses could not longer compete, there was less competition, the big companies paid lower wages, and they didn’t recycle profits back into the economy. That was the argument.

Whether you believe the argument—whether you think big box stores are good or bad—set that aside for a moment. You can’t deny that small shops and businesses were squeezed out, that’s not even up for debate. You almost can’t run a small hardware store in the U.S. anymore, not if there’s a Home Depot or a Lowe’s nearby. Those small stores have all been squeezed out. They were forced out of a place due to outside pressure, due to the actions of the larger stores.

This is not about right or wrong—this is a description of what happened.

I live in Mexico City. Mexico City is popular with remote workers from the United States and Canada. And a lot of remote workers make salaries in U.S. and Canadian dollars and they move to Mexico City and spend pesos. They make money in a strong currency and spend it in a weaker one.

And there are a handful of neighborhoods popular with remote worker expats. In those neighborhoods, prices are higher for everything—rent, coffee, restaurant meals, tacos, it’s all 20, 30, 50 percent more expensive than in other parts of the city.

And a lot of local residents who once could afford to live in Condesa, who once could afford to live in Roma, they find themselves squeezed out. A lot of rental apartments have been converted to Airbnb’s. And the long-term rentals that exist have increased in price, since a lot of remote workers from the U.S., Canada, and Europe can afford to pay more.

So people feel squeezed out. They feel forced to leave, economically, because they can’t pay the high prices in these few neighborhoods. And the prices are high because of the actions of others. Again, this is not about right or wrong. This is just a description of how people feel.

And by the way, this is not only a product of different currencies. People who have long lived in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, London, Hong Kong—they also feel squeezed out as prices there have increased.

English is the dominant second language of the world. It is often the language of commerce, of diplomacy, of media. So in some places around the world, the local languages are being squeezed out. French speakers in Quebec feel their language is being squeezed out by English.

This is not totally unjustified. Louisiana is a state in the United States. It was once a French territory, just like Quebec was. New Orleans was an important port, right at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Now, you might occasionally hear French on the streets in New Orleans, in the state of Louisiana, but it is by no means a French-speaking part of the U.S. French there is a delightful cultural quirk, a part of Louisiana’s history, but not its present.

French was squeezed out. English just took over. The U.S. bought Louisiana from France. Then it became a U.S. state, and that was the end of French in Louisiana. So French speakers in Quebec—they know this. They also see what is happening in the world. And they are afraid that French will be squeezed out of Quebec today just like it was squeezed out of Louisiana centuries ago, just like local languages are being squeezed out in other places around the world.

See you next time!

That brings us to the end of today’s excursion into English. Congratulations on making it to the end of another Plain English lesson. This was lesson number 675, so you can find the full transcript at PlainEnglish.com/675.

And it’s not just the transcript. We have built-in translations from English into nine languages—including, yes, French. And plenty of other exercises and activities for you there. You can get involved with any of our three membership levels .

If you want to get more actively involved in the English you learn here, then make sure you’re a member at PlainEnglish.com, and one membership level is free. Pick the one that’s right for you at PlainEnglish.com/join.

Remember we’re here every Monday and Thursday with a new English lesson. See you next time.

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