If you watch financial television all day, like we do, you'll quickly notice something.
A handful of guests have the confidence to speak actual English and say what they mean. These guests are invaluable: Their opinions are backed up by logic and conviction, they state them clearly, and they make specific statements and recommendations that normal viewers can understand. Even when these guests are wrong, their clarity helps you refine your own opinions--even if you disagree.
Of course, these guests also expose themselves to all sorts of potential ridicule--if the predictions or statements they make turn out to be wrong. And that's why the vast majority of guests speak a language unique to financial television. This language consists of market phrases that you hear all the time that sound vaguely intelligent but actually don't mean anything.
The phrases don't sound like they don't mean anything, of course: On the contrary, they appear to mean a lot. In fact, to the inexperienced listener, they make the speaker sound as wise as Warren Buffett (who, to his credit, never speaks this way). The phrases are often inscrutable to lay viewers, leaving them with the impression that, if they don't understand what the guest has just said, it's because they're just too stupid to understand.
Most of these phrases also have another key benefit, which is especially useful in the investment business: They never commit the speaker to any specific recommendation or prediction. In other words, no matter what happens after the guest removes his or her makeup and returns to their office, they can never be "wrong"--because they didn't actually say anything!
(And now you understand why you hear these phrases all the time and why they're handy to have in your back pocket in case you get asked a tough question on TV).
How common are these phrases? If you were to play a drinking game in which you took a shot every time you heard one on financial TV, you'd be passed out cold most days before the market even opened.
With the help of our readers, we've compiled a few of our favorites. If you have others, please send them along, and we'll add them to the list.
(NOTE: This list applies to meaningless smart-sounding phrases about the market and investing. We'll follow up with a list of meaningless smart-sounding phrases for corporate executives.)