CONSUELO MACK: This week on WEALTHTRACK, award winning financial journalist Jason Zweig takes on Wall Street jargon with his latest book, The Devil’s Financial Dictionary. What is the true meaning of Wall Street lingo? How devilish is its intent? Find out next, on Consuelo Mack WEALTHTRACK.
Hello and welcome to this edition of WEALTHTRACK, I’m Consuelo Mack.
At various times in our history the financial industry, Wall Street in particular, has been demonized as a monstrous machine of avarice and greed. This caricature typically occurs during and after market busts. As we have discovered in recent manias in internet stocks, housing prices and emerging markets, few complain when prices are going up. It is only in the pain of the fall that the old suspicions, distrust and political and public uproar re-emerge.
Following the market crash of 1929 social commentator and humorist Will Rogers wrote in a letter to the editor of The New York Times: “Sure must be a great consolation to the poor people who lost their stock in the last crash to know that it has fallen in the hands of Mr. Rockefeller, who will take care of it and see that it has a good home and never be allowed to wander around unprotected again.”
Rogers went on to say: “There is one rule that works in every calamity. Be it pestilence. War or famine, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
Great nineteenth century humorist, satirist and author, Mark Twain wrote of investing:
“October: this is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August, and February.”
In the aftermath of the last financial crisis, there are many Americans who agree with both gentlemen’s sentiments, which is one of the reasons this week’s guest Jason Zweig wrote his latest book “The Devil’s Financial Dictionary.” The book is modeled after the original “Devil’s Dictionary” which was published in 1906 and authored by Ambrose Bierce, a then wildly popular satirist and contemporary of mark twain whom few of us have heard of today.
Zweig, a highly respected financial journalist doesn’t usually do satire. He writes “The Intelligent Investor” column for The Wall Street Journal. He is the author of several serious books including Your Money and Your Brain and is the Editor of the Revised Edition of Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor.
Why did he decide to write a financial devils dictionary, populated with definitions for words like “Synergy, n. Often, the only thing one company gets when it buys another”, or “Rumor, n. The Wall Street equivalent of a fact” and then pepper the book with quotes from fictitious but plausibly sounding Wall Street characters? That was the first of many questions I asked him.