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Finance quasi-jargon

For the past few years, I’ve been doing financial writing on the side for supplemental income (i.e., virtually my whole income). It’s pretty basic stuff, mostly just telling investors how their portfolio did compared to a particular benchmark. While my sample size is limited, I have noticed a trend of what I call “quasi-jargon”: terms that are peculiar to financial discourse, yet do not seem to add any meaning whatsoever.

My (least) favorite example is “newsflow.” From context clues, I have determined that “newsflow” is information that becomes known in the public sphere and impacts stock prices in a positive or negative way depending on whether the information itself is positive or negative. In other words, “newsflow” is “news.” The addition of “flow” to the end — unmediated by either a space or a hyphen, mind you — adds absolutely nothing that I can tell. The only argument in its favor is perhaps that it’s a shorter way of saying “a stream of news that’s consistently positive or negative,” but isn’t the “flow” aspect of it already implicit in the very concept of news itself?

Other examples are less clear. One always “reiterates” guidance (management’s official expectations for revenue, etc.), for instance — one never “reaffirms” it, nor “holds it steady,” nor any other possible synonym: it’s “reiterate” only. In my mind, this is a second type of quasi-jargon. Instead of making up a new term that duplicates an existing term, you capture a completely normal word and make it play a jargon-like role, as though it’s irreplaceable. But it’s perfectly replaceable, and insisting on this particular word accomplishes nothing that its synonyms could not just as easily do.

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July 13, 2009 - Posted by | squalor, syntax

10 Comments

  1. squalor, syntax

    I appreciate this blog above other blogs for its responsiveness to customer feedback.

    On a more critical note: this post might have been more appropriately categorized under the “language” tag. I think you might have forgotten about that one.

    Comment by jms | July 13, 2009

  2. Please establish “neb newsflow” as a term of finance jargon. It would mean a lot to us.

    Comment by Wrongshore | July 13, 2009

  3. Yeah, my linguistics knowledge is pretty stale (and it wasn’t too impressive even when fresh), but isn’t this more of a lexical semantics post than a syntax post?

    I’m half-tempted to mount a defense of “newsflow”, but eh, my life isn’t that empty yet.

    Comment by transportinburma | July 13, 2009

  4. speaking of newsflow i confess i can’t listen to the famous shows airing on tuesdays, unless there are recordings
    coz confined to the lab until 9 pm for the video conference purposes
    alas

    Comment by read | July 13, 2009

  5. It’s probably an overly banal observation, but I suppose that jargon in financial newsletters serves an important purpose for the investment firm, and that is to suggest to investors that they must be getting something for their management fees, as the body of knowledge of the people they are paying is so specialized enough that they’ve found it efficient to create a special language to talk about it.

    OMG that was banal. I bored myself just typing that out.

    Comment by transportinburma | July 13, 2009

  6. Newsebb is newsgood. It may be oldnews, but doubleplusunbuy into newnews.

    Comment by nnyhav | July 13, 2009

  7. How empty is your life now, transportinburma?

    Comment by Wrongshore | July 14, 2009

  8. I should have used you as a consultant on the Orwell Newspeak piece I wrote recently: http://www.newstatesman.com/ideas/2009/06/orwell-language-newspeak

    Damn.

    Comment by infinite thought | July 14, 2009

  9. can you tell me how you get a job like this? i could use some cashflow

    Comment by a reader | July 16, 2009

  10. One word: networking.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 16, 2009


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