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Apart from its use among the bean-counters who talk about maximising company profits, I can't understand why price point has spread so widely in popular American parlance. As far as I can tell, the term is exactly synonymous with price; do people use it the way they do the word 'monies' — to sound clever on the cheap — or is there actually a difference between the two terms?

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5 Answers 5

It basically signifies that one is discussing price specifically in terms of how it relates to the demand curve.

If I had to guess, I'd say its gratuitous use probably started with conversations between corporate executives and accountants where the term was being used precisely, moving from there to other executives who were at the meeting, didn't understand the term but thought it sounded good and so tried to imitate the people who knew what they were talking about, gradually spreading out into the culture from there. So, yeah, fundamentally people imitating each other to try to sound clever.

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+1, but: …or else that one’s imitating people who do that, in an attempt to sound clever on the cheap. I’m afraid I’d agree with the OP that this phrase gets used well beyond contexts where the distinction is relevant. –  PLL Feb 9 '11 at 3:19
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Thanks, PLL. I am an economist by training, so I understand supply & demand curves. My question has more to do with why people toss around the term of art when it seems gratuitous in the case of telling the shampoo customer, say, how much the bottle costs. –  fortunate1 Feb 9 '11 at 3:29
    
Thank you both. It's my first day on the site and I've already learned a lot. You can't put a price point on that! –  fortunate1 Feb 9 '11 at 3:47

Price point means a point on a scale of possible prices at which something might be marketed; its meaning is different from the meaning of price, which is (principally, but not only) the amount of money expected, required, or given in payment for something.

People can use a phrase used in a specific context and give it a different, or a wider usage. The reasons people would "adopt" a phrase giving it a different meaning, or would use a phrase in contexts different from the original one can be many, and include imitation.

The phrase price point doesn't seem so widely spread. Looking at the Corpus of Contemporary American, I get the following data (the chart reports the frequency per million).

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The chart shows how many times the phrase price point is used. As comparision, this chart reports the frequency of phrases where the word price is not followed by point (which includes also the case where the word price is followed by a punctuation mark).

enter image description here

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@kiamaluno, I can't fathom your graphs because the scale of x-axes appears to be different one from the other. –  fortunate1 Feb 9 '11 at 15:31
    
If they would not be different, you would not see the values from the first chart; trying to show values between 0 and 0.6 with a scale that goes to 225 is a little hard. :-) –  kiamlaluno Feb 9 '11 at 15:44
    
I was just missing the little "lazy z" that denotes a jump in the common scale. So the word 'price' is spoken over 100 times more frequently than 'price point'? Wow, I've gotta get out of this town more -where 'pp' is annoyingly ubiquitous. Thanks, k. –  fortunate1 Feb 9 '11 at 16:27
    
The second chart is about price followed by a word that is not point, or not followed by any words. –  kiamlaluno Feb 9 '11 at 16:30
    
"The second chart is ..."; yes, I understood that, but even if half of the succeeding words were some other qualifier than "point" (rather than no succeeding word at all), I'm still surprised at the ratio. Empiricism: the surprises never stop! –  fortunate1 Feb 9 '11 at 21:35

Price point refers to a hypothetical, potential price.

We expect to sell 100 loaves of bread at the $2 price point.

Price is used to refer to an actual price.

The price for a loaf of bread is $2.

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There is no difference. For any use of "price point", one can substitute the word "price" as a synonym. The widespread use of the term price point reflects the insidious encroachment of corp-speak and jargon into everyday parlance.

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The common (i.e. outside of the narrow economic contexts where it has a specific and well-known meaning) usage of the phrase is a form of mental-gymnastics or double-think that allows the speaker to delude themselves that they're not talking about anything as vulgar and direct as an actual price.

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protected by RegDwigнt Mar 23 '13 at 11:34

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