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The word "bankrupt" originally came from Italy, deriving from banca rotta, or broken bench. When a medieval moneylender could not pay his debts, his bench was broken in two, sometimes over his head. Things are not quite so brutal these days, but European countries still deal with insolvent firms far more harshly than America does, and most such firms end up in liquidation. They often treat creditors badly too, meaning that neither side ends up satisfied. Observer's worry that Europe will cope with the coming flood of defaults far less effectively than America, meaning a slower recovery.
Source: The Economist
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