Look at the word on its own: swingeing. It doesn't seem quite right, does it? In fact, it looks like I've just spelled swinging wrong. There's something funny about it, something missing . . . That's it! Cuts! They're rarely apart, swingeing and cuts, like an Ant and Dec-style double act where one has limited value without the other.

Here's my prediction, though. Swingeing will appear in at least one news headline a week for the rest of the year. Election over, Greece self-combusting, Budget deficit blooming, and all the talk of where on earth the money's going to come from. Time for the swinge to come into its own.

But no, you can't have "the swinge", satisfying as it is to say, and useful as it would be to poets looking for something to rhyme with hinge or binge or syringe. Sadly, it's only an adjective, never a noun, and only a very archaic verb. So you can't swinge anything any more, as in "The government has swinged the entire education system and replaced all teachers with iPads".

It's odd when a word is only ever used in one context - in this case, to signify the slashing of funding. It's clear what it means - severe and damaging. So why not employ it more widely and make the most of its delicious sonic cruelty (it's hard to say the word without sneering a little). “My boss gave me a swingeing bollocking for failing to sell enough Cheerios." Or: "Madge gave Robert a swingeing blow to the ear after she found out he'd been stealing her soap."

There is so much wasted potential there. Swingeing could be making appearances in all manner of guises and new fancy costumes, rather than being perennially tacked on to its drab little friend, old sour-faced cuts. We should set it free, release it into the wild like a caged bird. Or a caged word, to be precise.

But swingeing will be busy enough in the months ahead as it is deployed around the country, scythe in hand, towards shivering schools and subsidised arts centres, libraries and nurseries. It's like the threat of a serial killer - where will swingeing, and its evil little sidekick, cuts, strike next? Lock your doors.

Sophie Elmhirst is a freelance writer and former New Statesman features editor.

This article first appeared in the 17 May 2010 issue of the New Statesman, On a tightrope