Talk Like a Stock Market Operator


Sources listed at end

Agents/Foghorns: The propaganda which accompanies the moves in the leading stocks may be supplemented by sending agents to dozens of brokerage houses to talk loudly of moves in the less prominent stocks. This policy may be a negligible factor in a move, but a “foghorn can walk into an office where there are 20 customers and several employees of the firm, buy 100 shares to back his statements and influence customers to buy. (Hickernell)

Agitation: It is only when misgovernment grows extreme enough to produce a revolutionary agitation among the shareholders that any change can be effected. (Spencer)

Army of Speculators: The army of speculators who form their battalions and charge up and down the field of the stock market is a motley crowd, and like the army of Xerxes, includes representatives from many nations — Americans from all sections of the Republic, Englishmen, Scotchmen, Welshmen, Irishmen, Germans, Frenchmen, Spaniards, Italians, Russians, Norwegians, Danes, Hungarians, Hebrews, Greeks and Ethiopians, masquerading under the guise of bulls and bears, swell the host and rush together in hostile combat. (Fowler)

Ballooning: To work up a stock far beyond its intrinsic worth by favorable stories, fictitious sales, or other cognate means. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Bear Brigade: The old gentleman took an omnibus up town, with a serene smile playing on his venerable features at the thought of his Pittsburg. J.F. passed down William Street with the air of a man who had inflicted, or was about to inflict, a terrible revenge on his old enemy Pittsburg, and joined a group of sad but determined looking men who belonged to the bear brigade and used to stand in front of the office of D. Groesbeck & Co. During the two weeks then next ensuing, it was amusing to watch the goings, comings and general looks of the bear brigade. Every pleasant morning they could be seen roosting on the iron railings in William Street, and sunning themselves, or standing around like lay figures the inside entrance to the regular board. First they were loud-mouthed in their predictions that the market was just on the eve of panic. Then, as the prices rose, they grew stiller, and finally subsided into a sulky silence. (Fowler)

Bear Operators: Several years ago, during a general market reaction, practically all active stocks were attacked by bear operators. Nash Motors held at 52. The money to buy Nash at 52 in unlimited amounts may have been provided by officers of the company engaged in Factory Activities. (Hickernell)

Behind the Market: A laggard pool hopes to sell out to investors who have the habit of selling something which has advanced sharply and then looking around to buy something which is “behind the market.” (Hickernell)

Blackingless: No one who has entered the precincts of the stock exchange will have failed to notice certain nondescripts who constantly frequent the market. They are men who have seen better days, but having dropped their money in the street, come there every day as if they hoped to find it in the same place. These characters are the ghosts of the market, fixing their lackluster eyes upon it, and pointing their skinny fingers at it, as if they would say, “Thou hast done this! They flit about the doorways, and haunt the vestibules of the exchange, seedy of coat, blackingless of boot, unkempt, unwashed, unshorn, wearing on their worn and haggard faces a smile more melancholy than tears. (Fowler)

Body Blow: (From Bernard Baruch?s testimony before Congress regarding the shorting of Steel Common in December 1916.)

Baruch: The next day I covered a third of the stocks I was short on.
Q. What did you do in Steel on December 13th?
A. I sold 23,400 shares starting early in the day.
Q. Why?
A. I think the reason should be apparent to everyone. When I read the German Chancellor’s speech, which, after the greatest war, was a declaration of peace, I realized what this meant to business and finance. My mind worked to the conclusion that a man of intelligence would act quickly and sell securities. The technical position was bad and this speech was a body blow. Peace would open an era of other activities but would raise trouble with the stock market. (Hickernell)

Carried; Booming Usually: A “foghorn” is not paid a salary. He is “carried” for 100 shares or more of the stock he is booming by the operators who give him instructions. (Hickernell)

Carrying Stock: To hold stock with the expectation of selling it at an advance .(Munsey’s Magazine)

Caught on the Rallies: Every man with a dollar’s interest in the market was broke, tied up or disgusted. The large traders, who made money on the way down, got the big-head, over-sold, and were caught on the rallies. (“A Specialist in Panics”)

Chiseler: The pool manager of a stock little known will also pay money to the chiseler. The chiseler claims to have contacts which will enable him to publish propaganda in the right places, to introduce the pool manager to the right people, to arrange with financial editors of certain newspapers to comment favorably upon the stock, and to develop a public interest in the other ways. Money need not be paid to the chiseler unless he fulfills his bargain. (Hickernell)

Clique: A combination of operators controlling vast capital in order to expand or break down the market. (Munsey’s Magazine)MUST READ

Constitutional Bear: Somehow, the market is never more than ‘barely steady’ to the constitutional bear. When it is dull, he quotes it ‘soft,’ which, in his vocabulary, means declining, or in a condition suitable to be depressed. When it is rampant, then it is ‘just on the verge of a severe break,’ and when its tendency is upwards, it is only ‘barely steady.’ (Fowler)

Conversational Activity: Just before the unloading begins, the pool manager may send lieutenants to numerous brokerage houses to inquire whether they know of any large blocks for sale, 10,000 shares or more. They remark: “We offer a commission to anyone who can acquire such a large block. The stock is wanted by a capitalist who is keen to make an investment in the company, but who does not wish to push up the price in the open market.” This offer becomes gossip in each brokerage house. Presently the whole country hears that the stock is good in the course of conversational activity at lunch clubs, dinner parties, hotels, golf clubs and other places where people congregate, and if only 500 people buy 100 shares each, the pool has sold 50,000 shares. (Hickernell)

Corners: The history of the Street, for the past thirty-five years, is one constant succession of these “corners,” in which great fortunes have risen and fallen like the waves on a stormy sea. Among the more remarkable of these corners may be mentioned that in Canton, 1834 and 1835, when it sold up, from 60, its par value, to 300; that in Harlem, in 1864, which carried the price to 285, and that in Prairie du Chien, in 1865, which sold in three months, from 40 to 250. (Fowler)

Cover: A favorable day is selected when everything looks bright and sunny in the financial world, a plausible report relative to the prospects of the Railroad Company whose stock is under the control of the ring is noised abroad, and different brokers are employed to bid up the price in the market in order to frighten the bears, and at the same time they are notified to deliver the stock which they have borrowed of the ring. Thus, the bears are compelled to cover, that is, to close their contracts by buying and delivering the stock, which the ring alone can sell them. (Fowler)

Cross Currents: It is desirable not to have a fixed idea regarding the duration of pool cycles or the longer swings which are influenced by the business cycle. There are cross currents in every business cycle which prolong or shorten the prosperity period. (Hickernell)

Crowd; Sponsors: It is impossible to judge the daily ripples. Floor traders, the old Waldorf crowd, the new Palm Beach crowd and professionals generally are daily testing the market to ascertain whether sponsors are supporting stocks or retreating. (Hickernell)

Delmonico’s: Hear them talk, and you would suppose they lived on hope, rather than on those delicious ragouts and choice wines which Delmonico, or Schedler, or some of the other famed restaurateurs furnish them.

Disquieted: The public was disquieted to see the Australian Agricultural Company run through all its capital of 41,900,000, with nothing to show for it. (Train)

Favoring Conditions of the Hour, The: In the commercial world it sometimes happens that injudicious purchases result in disaster; but this is also induced by excessive timidity or by slowness to seize upon the favoring conditions of the hour, which wait upon the convenience of no one. (Stock Exchange Investments)

Financial Writers You have walked through New Street: That is the common name for the Hall of Delusions. Retracing your steps, you will notice that all buildings, new and old, stand with their rear elevations to New Street. From that circumstance it derives a sort of privacy and other advantages, and is the more suitably devoted to the uses of brokers, traders, put-and-call dealers, financial writers, failures, touts, tipsters, moribund speculators, men of mercurial fortunes, and all the other accidental human phenomena of a great marketplace where wealth is continually changing hands. (Garrett)

Full Figures: ‘I made the orders at 1/8 above the even marks, having noticed that in violent breaks the bottom prices were usually at full figures.’ (“A Specialist in Panics”)

Gilded Speculator: Let not the hard-working lawyer, the burdened and anxious merchant, or the hardy sons of manual labor, envy the gilded speculator, though he recline on silken couches, and dally with the daintiest of viands, and sip wines of the vintage of Waterloo, out of Bohemian glass. And yet…beneath his frontal sinuses, amid the convolutions of his brain, the vulture passions are at work, led on by their generals, ambition and avarice. Pining envy, fear of an evil which always impends, rage over injuries inflicted by others, or by his own weakness and incapacity, jealousy and hatred of successful rivals, all hold carnival in the space of an hour, and are kept active and sleepless by hope which quickens them with her enchanted wings.”

Gunning a Stock: To use every art to produce a break when it is known that a certain house is heavily supplied and would be unable to resist an attack. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Hammering: If a group of operators believe a decline is in order and think they can break the market, they first gently sell moderate amounts short at top prices. They put out short lines over a period of weeks. Hammering tactics do not begin until they are short of large amounts. Then stocks are hammered. (Hickernell)

Harrowing Career of a Speculator: One day he is lifted to dizzy heights, the next, plunged into black depths. He is hurried through dark labyrinths through paths where a single step is destruction. He climbs on the edge of a sword to a fool’s paradise, where he tastes joys brief as a dream, and in an hour is abased to the earth where he drinks the full cup of humiliation and want. Blacksmiths’ sparks flicker before his eyes. His blood regurgitates to his heart, which beats on his ribs like a trip-hammer. Paralysis, apoplexy and aneurysm are watching for their prey. Not long since, a great man of the “street lay for weeks in the clutches of this last disease, and the muffled door-bell told the results of this harrowing career of a speculator. When he died, they said he left four millions. But he had paid for this colossal fortune with a life worn out in middle age by the weary burdens and sharp vicissitudes of the stock market. (Fowler)

Heavy: It is remarkable how many stocks react 50% from the crest of each wave. A stock which reacts more than 50% is considered “heavy It may be desirable to shift from those which are “heavy into those which react only 10% or 20%, or not at all. (Hickernell)

Inferior Securities: In 1931 Washington believed that Wall Street had sold out control of America’s gold to Europe in exchange for inferior securities. (Hickernell)

Insiders: It looked like a trade war, so I began to study these securities with a view to buying the best among them when these new-blown balloons busted. They were grossly over-capitalized, and their reports were made as glowing as possible so that insiders could make a market for the shares. (“A Specialist in Panics”)

It Might Have Been: Those saddest words of tongue or pen, “It might have been, enter largely into the thoughts and conversation of the thoroughbred speculator. If and but are the most frequent conjunctions in his vocabulary. His whole life is a series of regrets, and strange to say, these regrets are more often for what he might have made, but did not, than for what he has actually lost. (Fowler, p. 34)

Kite Flying: Expanding one’s credit beyond his limits. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Learned a Valuable Lesson: Stock operator code for a sizable loss. (Tom Ryan, 12/29/04)

Magnanimous Proclamations: The prices which had been galloping up for ten days now closed the heat with a rush. When Pittsburg was struck on the morning call, Morse jumped into the center of the crowd and yelled at the top of his voice, ‘I’ll give 105 for the whole capital stock, or any part.’ He bluffed the whole board. No one took him up on his liberal offers. But while he was holding up the market price by making these magnanimous propositions, his agents were busily at work selling Pittsburgh on every side. (Fowler, p. 234)

Mania for Speculation: He presented a singular psychological phenomenon — a distinct phase of the mania for speculation. He had got to look upon the market as a live thing — a fantastic monster. He spoke of it as of the feminine gender. ‘She rises.’ ‘She falls.’ He seemed to think of it as a debtor which owed him money. It was a question of revenge, however, with him, more than money. He hungered for revenge for his losses. His operations were undertaken in a spirit of vindictiveness against every stock in which he had lost. When he made a lucky hit, he would flourish certified checks, and boast like an Indian brave over the scalps which he had taken from an enemy. (Fowler)

Margin: Why do brokers’ faces look black when their customers’ margins have nearly run out? When stocks begin to break, they often quietly sell their customers’ stocks. Then, after prices have declined so far as to leave little apparent margin on the account, the customer, quite unconscious that his stocks have been sold at a much higher price, finds himself subjected to various influences to induce him to give the order to sell. His broker looks glum, and talks of tight money, and the dangerous condition of the market. If the customer gives the order to sell, of course the broker puts into his own pocket the difference between the higher price at which he sold his customer’s stock, and the order to sell given under the pressure of those glum looks and bear talk. We do not allege that all brokers are in the habit of doing this, but it is certainly one of the ways by which the public are fleeced.”

Milking the Street: The act of cliques or great operators who hold certain stocks so well in hand that they cause any fluctuations they please. By alternating lifting and depressing shares they take all the floating money in the market. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Mushroom Millionaires: The stock market began to fairly sizzle. All kinds of new industrials were floated and boomed. The Waldorf was thronged with mushroom millionaires. (“A Specialist in Panics”)

Nameless Graves: As for the rabble of the unsuccessful, they cling to their illusions, till want or decrepitude, or both, drive them into obscurity, to ruminate over a misspent life, and be laid finally in nameless graves, by the hand of charity. (Fowler)

Nondescripts: No one who has entered the precincts of the stock exchange will have failed to notice certain nondescripts, who who constantly frequent the market. They are men who have seen better days, but having dropped their money on the street, come there every day as if they hoped to find it in the same place. (Fowler)

One Word Plastics: A phrase used to describe why seasoned portfolio managers own the latest high flying technology stock even if it conflicts with their investment style. (Tom Ryan, 12/29/04)

Operators: If a group of operators believe a decline is in order and think they can break the market, they first gently sell moderate amounts short at top prices. They put out short lines over a period of weeks. Hammering tactics do not begin until they are short of large amounts. Then stocks are hammered. (Hickernell)

Perturbations: The perturbations to which prices have been subjected on the New York Stock Exchange during the past year have naturally caused revulsions of feeling among those who have suffered from them, and much questioning of the wisdom of some of the recent operations of prominent American financiers. (Conant)

Pine Box: When they have once entered the street, they never leave it except in a pine box or a rosewood case, according to circumstances. (Fowler)

Plantigrade Bear: J.F. was the most plantigrade of bears. The panic of 1857 had changed him from an operator for a rise, into an operator for a fall. [OED: flat-footed.] (Fowler)

Pool Cycle: A business cycle, however, may cover a period of three years or more, while a pool cycle may last only three to six months. There may be five or six pool cycles in one business cycle. (Hickernell)

Pool Manager: If the pool manager of XYZ moves the stock upward, the floor traders will buy large blocks of XYZ if they think the move is just beginning. But the pool manager does not want to give these floor traders an opportunity to make a large profit. He changes his plans and breaks the stock down several points. This frightens the floor traders, and they sell out promptly at a loss, or when the stock recovers to the purchase levels. (Hickernell)

Post-Divestiture Flourish: Refers to the tendency for a security price to accelerate its move in the direction of one’s position but only after one has exited the position leaving one with the regret that one could have doubled the profit if one had held on for only another hour/day/week. (Tom Ryan, 12/29/04)

Prodigious Oscillations: Nearly all those prodigious oscillations in the stock market which have startled the public for the past seven years have been due to the influence of those powerful combinations which have obtained control of certain stocks and made them dance up in long erratic jumps, or have hurled them down still more swiftly and strangely. Hardly a week goes by without a recurrence of these singular phenomena. Sometimes it has been Pacific Mail, sometimes Erie, or Old Southern, or Pittsburg, or Reading. (Fowler)

Proposition: Gates was in bed but in a mood to negotiate. He said to the Morgan partner, ‘I will sell my L & N shares for ten million more than they cost me.’ The proposition was accepted. (Hickernell)

Reaction: A trader who refuses to buy a stock at 70 when the market is dull, will buy on a reaction after the stock has risen to 82 and dropped to 76. (Hickernell)

Quotations: The public often seems to forget that quotations in Wall Street are only the mirror of their own estimate of the value of securities.

Rigging: The great and rapid development of railways in America has brought many securities on the English market. The powers exercised by presidents, with enormous salaries and with opportunities for making money out of contracts and by rigging the share market, are perilous to the interests of shareholders. Political influence is largely exerted, and politics form a lucrative trade with unprincipled adventurers in America. (Stock Exchange Investments)

To Sell Out a Man: To sell down a stock which another is carrying so low that he is compelled to quit his hold and perhaps to fail. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Semi-Scientific: The swings of the pool cycles may have little relation to fundamentals or earnings. For this reason the semi-scientific study of price, action, top formations, resistance points and of other indicators of technical position is necessary. Even if the study of price formations and resistance points will never yield perfect conclusions and will never be an exact science, it is also true the manipulated swings in the market will always be in evidence and must be interpreted. (Hickernell)

Semi-Strong Form: An adjective used by financial academics when the currently accepted theory is obviously wrong but as yet no alternative hypothesis has been proposed. (Tom Ryan, 12/29/04)

Settled Investment: Some persons prefer a settled investment, such as Consols, or corporation stock, or railway debentures, from which a small but fixed income is derivable. Of late years the market prices of such securities have risen, and they yield only about 3 per cent, or even less. The tendency is toward yet higher prices, with a corresponding diminution in the return. It seems to be becoming ?fine by degrees and beautiful less,? until it threatens to reach the vanishing point. As a result, persons of this description spend their lives and resources in what Cowper describes as the profitless toil: Of dropping buckets into empty wells, And growing old in drawing nothing up. (Stock Exchange Investments)

Sick Market: When brokers very generally hesitate to buy. Usually consequent upon previous over-speculation. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Solid Merchants; The Western Blizzard: A name applied by an ironical Wall Street to the panic of ’57 – howled and blustered down that narrow lane on October 13th. Blowing a clean swath through the nation’s top-lofty credit, it upended banks and solid merchants. (Davis, p. 93.)

Specter of Panic: Above him hovers, day and night, a vast, dark formless shape, threatening ruin and penury. This is the specter of panic. (Fowler)

Squeezed Out; Figure of Importance: [Jacob Little’s] final failure was due to being right too soon. In 1856 he sold 100,000 shares of Erie short. The Erie crowd calculated how high they would need to push the stock to squeeze him and Little’s brokers were forced to buy back 100,000 Erie at a high price. He never revived his fortune to a figure of importance after that. (Hickernell)

Spilling Stock: When great quantities of a stock are thrown upon the market, sometimes from necessity, often in order to break the price. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Trifling Commission: One-eighth of one percent equals $12.50 on a transaction in a hundred shares of stock worth $10,000. Yet there are students of Wall Street who charge to this trifling commission all the losses of speculation. If, say these theorists, the speculator neither wins nor loses on his investments he will be a bankrupt after a brief experience, because all his money will be employed in paying commissions. (Munsey’s Magazine)

Trinity Church: The ‘whipsaw’ market offered no rest and recuperation to the traders who wanted to get their money back where they dropped it, nor to the bankers who looked wearily up toward Trinity Church, expecting to see its green lawn extended through Wall and Broad streets. (“A Specialist in Panics”)

Twist: When the stock price has risen from 20 to 40 per cent, it suddenly grows scarce. The bears find themselves troubled to make their deliveries. Now the ring prepare to “twist” their antagonists. (Fowler)

Unloading: Just before the unloading begins, the pool manager may send lieutenants to numerous brokerage houses to inquire whether they know of any large blocks for sale, 10,000 shares or more. They remark: We offer a commission to anyone who can acquire such a large block. The stock is wanted by a capitalist who is keen to make an investment in the company, but who does not wish to push up the price in the open market.? This offer becomes gossip in each brokerage house. Presently the whole country hears that the stock is good in the course of conversational activity at lunch clubs, dinner parties, hotels, golf clubs and other places where people congregate, and if only 500 people buy 100 shares each, the pool has sold 50,000 shares. (Hickernell)

Wall Street: It dates back, the antiquarians tell us, to the year 1653, for its first survey was in the palmy days of Petrus Stuyvesant when Schouts Burgomasters and Schepens lorded it over the little colony of New Amsterdam. Its name (one of the few remaining landmarks of the early Dutch possession) was derived from the wall built of palisades and earth on the northern line of the street to ward off the aborigines. But what contrasts has the light of two hundred years painted between the mimic life of New Amsterdam and this great, roaring, serious, tragic Babylon of today. No sign now of the quaint, peaked roofs covered with Dutch tiles, the fort flying the blue lions of Holland, the old stockade and half moon embankment at its lower end. But the ancient name of Wall Street still remains. Its name is something more than a shadow, too, for it is in fact Wall Street, still lined with a succession of fortresses, behind whose bastions are garrisons well disciplined and alert, guarding the treasures, if not the lives of a nation. Within its casements and vaults lie piles of coin enough to excite the cupidity of ten West India companies, or to lade a hundred Spanish galleons. Here the forces of commerce silently gather and equip themselves for distant expeditions from which they return again with the spoils of Ormus and of Ind. In these strongholds terms are dictated to the vanquished, and treaties made. Towering over all stands old Trinity, like a giant sentry, day and night, clashing out in peals and chimes of bells from his watch-tower, ‘All’s well.’ (Fowler)

Weakly Margined People: It wasn’t what you could call a panic; it was one of those ten- or twenty-point declines that come along every now and then, shaking out weakly margined people and badly scaring those provided with big margins. (“A Specialist in Panics”)


Charles A. Conant, Wall Street and the Country (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904)

Forrest Davis, Solid Merchants: What Price Wall Street? (New York: Goodwin Publishers, 1932)

William Worthington Fowler, Ten Years on Wall Street; or, Revelations of Inside Life and Experience on ‘Change (Hartford, Conn.: Worthington, Duston & Co, 1870)

Garet Garrett, Where the Money Grows, first published 1911.

Walter Hickernell, What Makes Stock Market Prices, originally published 1932.

Edward G. Riggs, “A Wall Street Vocabulary: A simple guide to the technical terms of stock speculation,” Munsey’s Magazine, Vol. X, No. 4 (January 1894)

Herbert Spencer, “Railway Morals and Railway Policy (Edinburgh Review, 1854)

George Francis Train, “Young America in Wall-Street (London: Sampson, Low, Son & Co., 1857)

Stock Exchange Investments, Universal Stock Exchange, Ltd., 1897.

A Specialist in Panics, from Fourteen Methods of Operating in the Stock Marketing (Magazine of Wall Street, 1909, reprinted by Fraser Publishing Co., 1968)

“Wall Street, Munsey’s Magazine, January 1894

Tom Ryan (A D’Spec Contributor): originals from the Sunbaked Speculator

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