I love seeing how “experts” think about things, and I especially enjoy hearing the oddities in how they talk about them. People, you see, say the dumbest things. I know, because I are a people, and I often say things that make others look at me askew. I like to think most of the time I get that reaction, though, it’s because I’ve said something that, while it goes against the grain, is true. I like to think that it’s this truth that catches people’s breath.
Of course, I also like to think that ice cream has no calories, so take that for what it’s worth.
Regardless, it’s been my experience that the very best time to pull out the old BS-o-meter is when words come from the mouths of experts. Experts, it seems, are often not really very expert at all. Oh, you can find them–experts who really are expert. But it’s not as easy as you would like. Most people, often don’t really know what they are doing and can’t describe it very well when you dig down deeply. Don’t believe me? Just ask them to draw a process diagram. Then watch the cartwheels and jousting begin.
My latest enjoyment in this vein came from an article linked in someone’s Facebook or Twitter feed. I can’t remember which. But it’s a piece in Business Insider titled “Dumb things Finance People Say.” It’s full of fun little bits, and I admit I enjoy the commentary the article provides on each of them.
Among my favorite:
1. “They don’t have any debt except for a mortgage and student loans.”
3. “Earnings missed estimates.”
4. “Earnings met expectations, but analysts were looking for a beat.”
8. “More buyers than sellers.”
16. “Our bullish case is conservative.”
24. “Investors are fleeing the market.”
These are just flat-out silly, and represent faulty logic and faulty statements at the most basic level. I enjoy the article’s responses–especially the response to “Earnings Missed Estimates” (no, simple cause and effect thinking allows us to see the it’s the estimate that’s the problem here), and “More Buyers than Sellers” (of which there are, by definition, always an equal amount of each).
Then there are phrases that are maybe more the lingo of the environment than anything else, but are, again entertaining for the way they reveal the thinking behind the comment:
2. “Earnings were positive before one-time charges.”
14. “We’re trying to maximize returns and minimize risks.”
17. “We look where others don’t.”
22. “We’re constructive on the market.”
25. “We expect more volatility.”
28. “This is a cyclical bull market in a secular bear.”
There are times I wonder why people talk like this. What reason do they have for making these kinds of misstatements? But I get it. I do. It’s among the beauties of people and of language. We use language for several reasons, and among them are to sway people to do things we want or to think the way we think. Hence you get these kinds of statement s from experts in certain fields (Finance folks are not the only ones you could write an article like this on). They aren’t all lies, of course. Some have elements of truth. Some highlight a single slice of the truth, essentially giving that slice prioritization over others. Some carry a message inside their obviously erroneous nature (“People are fleeing the market” for example can be right even if all stocks are owned at all times–but the actual event that is happening is that “even though prices are falling, a lot of people are selling their possessions as rapidly as they can.” If an expert were to talk about it in those terms, terms that actually describe what is happening, you might interpret this as “What a great time to buy”–which, assuming you have some disposable cash on hand and are not terribly risk averse, it actually is. I mean, who are these few buyers, and when do they expect to turn a profit buying these properties whose prices are in free fall? Tell me, experts, who are the dunces here? Wouldn’t it be just as proper–and more helpful–to say “savvy investors are picking up great buys?”).
Anyway. This was my fun read of the day, and I thought perhaps you might like it, too.