Daily Archives: March 26, 2008

….of bulls and bears….

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………..17 pairs of eyes were staring back at me blankly……………..!

This was the response I got when I was asking a Business English class, if they knew how a rising stock market came to be called bullish’ and a falling stock market, bearish’? “Oh come on, … you mean you don’t even have a theory?”.  More blank stares. Sigh… I guess young city slickers of today really don’t have much opportunity to commune with real life bulls or bears to have any inkling how they lived or even moved for the matter …. O.K. Forgiven!

Let me tell you why……… 

It’s all smiles in a BULLISH  stock market! Money in the pocket. The financial indices are moving up, up and away. Stock prices are rising. So – what has the BULL, who’s probably stuck in a farm or a field somewhere,  got to do with this whole fiasco. Way out of its element, no? Well it alludes to the way a BULL attacks – you see, the bull heaves its horned head upwards when it is attacking….  So, rising head vs. rising stock markets … now, do you get it?

As for the BEAR, well it attacks by lunging downwards…  hence you have a BEARISH market where plunging indices and dipping stock prices are the order of the day.

Check this video out before you read any further! A good demonstration of how a bear attacks ….. you really wouldn’t want to miss it …..   

AHAHAAAHHHH – Sorry for being corny, I couldn’t resist it! OK, so I’m a city slicker too. Don’t take my word for it, go watch the National Geographic channel or something 🙂

Before we move on, let me digress a bit into the use of bull in the English Language! Did you know that …….. the word bulldoze (which implies the idea of pushing others around) was originally written as ‘bulldose. This means that you apply a good dose of whipping sufficient to get even a bull moving which gave birth to the modern version of “bulldozing your way through to get things done ….”  And if you bully someone, it really suggests that you’re overbearing like the bull and you bellow’ like one too. In other words, you’re just plain mean’.  Has anyone described you as being ‘bull-headed’?  Sorry, I can’t help you there, you’re probably downright stubborn. Lastly, I shouldn’t even go into the use of the word which involves the faeces of the bull which represents an extremely vulgar expletive … especially when someone expresses displeasure at hearing you talk nonsense.  As you can see, the status of the word BULL in the English Language is not as elevated as its cousin’s use in the financial markets.  Well, you can’t win ’em all.

Ok, back to the financials – you might come across people saying that a trader who sells stocks short is called a ‘bear’. They are called thus because essentially they are selling stocks without having them, in the hope that the price will go down and he can purchase what he needs for delivery at a lower cost. And so the old Western folk saying still applies to him: “He sold the skin before he got the bear.”

Well folks, that’s my two sen worth with regards to the use of bulls and the bears in Business and everyday English. Thank you for ‘bearing’ with me through this blog…and NO, this time the word does not allude to the poor animal at all….

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