The Lexicology of Finance and Politics

Bill Tatro
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Posted: Sep 06, 2013 12:01 AM
The Lexicology of Finance and Politics

My grandmother was a dedicated English teacher, instructing students how to read, write, and fully understand the English language.  By the same token, I make my living by utilizing both the spoken and written word.  However, regarding the extent that the English language is being abused these days, I’m quite certain that my grandmother would be absolutely appalled, and I would wholeheartedly agree with her. 

As an example, remember when being out of work and being unemployed implied the same thing?  Nevertheless, in this day and age, if you’re out of work but not actively seeking employment, you’re not part of the participation pool, and therefore you’re not considered to be out of a job.  (For a more thorough explanation, I urge you to check out Abbott and Costello on the internet.) 

In addition, there was a time when your financial advisor would essentially let you know how much money you either made or lost for the year.  It was very straightforward information; your investment portfolio was either up or down.  Yet, nowadays, it’s all about “relative performance.”  Thus, in any given year, if the S&P 500 dropped by 30%, and your portfolio was only down 20%, according to Wall Street, you greatly outperformed the stock market and you should be delighted.  Yet, applying that very same logic during both the dot-com bubble collapse of 2000-2001 and the stock market credit crash of 2009, achieving outstanding “relative performance” would have definitely resulted in no retirement for yours truly. 

And that brings us to the word “investor.”  This term once referred to someone who did their homework before they positioned their money.  If the “investor” was planning to purchase stock in a given company, the “investor” would start by carefully reviewing the corporate management team, analyzing the company’s product, examining the firm’s prior sales data, and scrutinizing the company’s cash flow — indeed, the mirroring of Warren Buffett’s style was not uncommon.  As the company grew and developed, the “investor” also knew that they would be rewarded with potential dividend increases and probable price appreciation.  Yet, while discussing the characteristics of our contemporary financial markets during a recent drive through the countryside with my good buddy George, we were truly in agreement as we contemplated the brand new meaning of the word “investor.”  With the average individual facing a steep uphill battle of trying to make money on Wall Street these days, George summed it up quite nicely, “See those three birds sitting on the telephone pole, I’ll bet you which one flies off first.”  Ladies and gentlemen, in today’s convoluted world of bogus and manipulated financial markets, the odds of success are as good as anyone’s guess, and the word “investor” has definitely been replaced by the term “gambler.” 

I’ll conclude with this example.  In the past, if one country (the aggressor) bombed another country (the opponent), trained their troops to infiltrate and kill as many oppositional government soldiers as possible, recognized that collateral damage could kill civilians including women and children, and then tried to topple the opposition’s government — it was called war.  Yet, today, it’s referred to as an action, a response, or even a responsibility.  Perhaps by not calling it a war, it rationalizes that any hostile response by the nation under attack would be utterly unthinkable, and would also alleviate any fears that the aggressor country’s citizenry might have about their own lives being in danger. 

Since I don’t have the time to do so, I certainly hope the good folks at Merriam-Webster are keeping up with all these latest word changes and new definitions. 

It’s certainly an interesting world that we live in — now, if we could just understand what the word “interesting” means. 


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