Now's the time to shoot the puppy

ALL professions lend themselves to slang, but few are as fertile as the City and Wall Street. Since the term “credit crunch” emerged, a host of other terms have entered the lexicon. A year ago quantitative easing was just an arcane – if tongue-twisting – bit of economic theory. Now it is part of the everyday vocabulary in the City and beyond. It is one of many phrases that has emerged from this recession. Or, if you are one of those who believes that it has been caused by male behaviour, “he-cession”.

Whether it was caused by men or not, one of the ways to measure the recovery is very feminine indeed: the “lipstick indicator” – the use of lipstick sales as an economic indicator. When times are tough, economists say, women buy more low-cost comfort items such as lipstick.

Alongside these economic terms are our new ways of coping with tough economic times, such as “abs-tinence” – the dropping of costly and rarely used gym memberships to save money – as daily workouts now tend to take place on living room rugs or jogging around local parks.

Homebodies might have to cut down their “slashflow” – spending on home furnishings – and even begun dining “al desko” – the practice of eating lunch (typically home-made) at one’s desk rather than on the terrace of a local restaurant.

Over on Wall Street, they seem to have a taste for somewhat more sensual imagery. A “J.Lo” is the slang for the rounding bottom in a stock’s price chart, a reference to Jennifer Lopez’s famously voluptuous rear-end. “Bo Derek” refers to the perfect stock.

The City of London is more varied in its imaginative description of the equity market. Take, for example, “poop and scoop” – to drive down a share price by spreading malicious rumours; “mattressing”, the term used by other traders and bank managers to hide their results; a “barefoot pilgrim”: someone who has lost everything on the stock market, but might still be persuaded to invest again; a “teddy bear pat”: a letter or telephone call indicating that a suitor was about to make a takeover offer (this gave the target company a chance for a friendly merger); to “catch a falling knife”: the risky tactic of trying to buy a stock as its price is going down; and a “strong bear hug”: a tender offer that named a specific price, so had to be made public, which backed the victim into a corner because a company’s directors have a responsibility to the shareholders to accept any good offer. The offer, of course, being marginally too attractive to reject.

Animal imagery plays a colourful and disproportionate part in day-to-day corporate parlance with “shoot the puppy” – to dare to do the unthinkable; putting “lipstick on a pig” – an attempt to put a favourite spin on a negative situation; “a pig in a python” – a surge in a statistic measured over time; “boiling frog syndrome” – a company which fails to recognise gradual market change (as a slowly-boiled frog may not detect a slow temperature increase); “moose on the table” – an issue which everyone in a business meeting knows is a problem but which no-one wants to address; this is similar to the “elephant in the room”, the problem which everyone ignores or avoids mentioning because it might be politically or socially embarrassing; and a “seagull manager” – a manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, defecates all over everything, and then leaves.

But at least the downsizing and the downturn has brought with it some positivity as expressed by “digital nomad” – a person who uses technology, particularly wireless networking, to work without requiring an office or other fixed address; “returnment” – the act of returning to work after one has retired from one’s job and “stoozing” – the act of borrowing money at a bank’s introductory interest rate of 0 per cent, placing it in a high interest bank account to make a profit from the interest earned, whereby the borrower (or “stoozer”) then pays the money back before the 0 per cent period ends.
But no doubt all of this is familiar to you. After all, we are all “recessionistas” now.

Adam Jacot de Boinod is the author of The Wonder of Whiffling (Particular Books £12.99)