Wall Streeters, like any other group of people, have their own language based on what they do and see every day.
That means it’s a language based on money. Wall Streeters go “long” or “short” on anything and see “upside” or “downside” everywhere.
The same word for clients is also used for girls.
Not all of Wall Street’s tribes — the traders, the investment bankers, the analysts, brokers etc. — use all of these phrases. Some of them are specific to each group.
For example, if you ever hear someone say they’re “junked up” on something, you can bet you’re talking to a trader. That’s just how they roll. Be aware.
Big shouts to Turney Duff, author of The Buy-Side: A Wall Street Trader’s Tale of Spectacular Excess, for helping us with some of the definitions for the following 22 phrases you’ll hear on Wall Street. This could be handy if you ever find yourself stuck behind some i-bankers waiting for a drink at Ulysses.
It’s hard to be in a world where you don’t know the language.
Long and short, used to describe investments expected to go up or down, respectively, are used to replace positive or negative feelings about anything. A typical usage:
Banker 1: “I’m long seersucker, short flannel. Hipsters are a fad, my friend.”
To communicate absolute certainty, a banker may say they’re “triple long” or “triple short” an outcome or object.
A sarcastic way to say “absolutely not.” A typical usage:
Banker 1: Let’s watch ‘Love Actually’
Banker 2: SOLD
This indicates that there’s a lot of (upside), or no (downside) benefit in a given situation.
Banker: “Upside of going to the Hamptons this weekend is that James is throwing a party at Pink Elephant, downside is that he’s inviting my ex.”
4. “A piker.”
A piker is somebody who pretends to know everything about the Street but doesn’t actually know anything and makes very little money working for a bottom tier firm.
This term comes from the late 19th century slang verb “pike” meaning “withdraw from an agreement because of overcautiousness.”
5. “Big swinging d—-“
If you don’t know this term, you haven’t been anywhere near anyone on Wall Street. The BSD is the person that does the biggest deals, bring in the most money, and is generally a badass everyone looks up to.
The term was referenced in Michael Lewis’s “Liar’s Poker“: “If he could make millions of dollars come out of those phones, he became that most revered of all species: a Big Swinging D*ck.”
6. “Hunting elephants”
Most famously said by Warren Buffett, this means that you’re looking for big deals. Here’s how he put it after announcing that he would do a deal to acquire Heinz with private equity firm 3G.
“I’m ready for another elephant. Please, if you see any walking by, just call me,” he told CNBC. “We’re prepared. Our elephant gun has been reloaded, and my trigger finger is itchy.”
IMDB / New Line Cinema
7. “Buying size”
Trading big money or a large number of securities.
Hedge fund trader: “I have a friend over at Morgan Stanley that trades size all day every day. We should poach him.”
8. “F-You money”
The money it would take for you to leave your job and never work again.
9. “Junked up”
This can be in reference to any security, and it means you’re super bullish. Traders could also use it in real life to express enthusiasm for an object.
Trader: “I’m junked up on Venezuelan 10-years!”
10. “A clowngrade”
When a sellside analyst upgrades or downgrades a stock for a stupid reason.
Trader: “You see that Guggenheim analysts’ Twitter clowngrade? You can’t monetise that s— yet!”
11. “Building a book”
Traditionally and professionally this means that you’re building business, a portfolio of trades or deals.
In slang, it means collecting drug deal orders from friends to call them in.
12. “Put it on the tape”
Back in the old days, trade orders to be executed by brokers came out on ticker tape — a long roll of paper constantly printing orders and emptying them out to the trading floor. Now all of this is done by computers, of course.
However, the phrase has stuck. Now the tape isn’t just for stocks or bonds though, it could be for ordering anything from food to drugs.
Margin Call screenshot
13. “Stopped out”
Meaning you’re filled on an order and can take no more requests for anything from food to drugs.
14. “Treat me subject”
This means maybe. When placing an order for a client, a trader may say “treat me subject” to indicate that the client may have the order they want after the trader makes a phone call to double check that it’s all in the clear.
The phrase is also used in everyday conversation to say maybe.
Banker 1: “We’re going to Nobu 57 after work.”
Banker 2: “Treat me subject.”
Girls or clients, either way there are a lot of them in the sea.
16. “Not held”
In trading terms, this means you’re free to go to the market. Conversationally, it means “feel free.”
Banker 1: “Should we order the $US300 bottle of Barolo?”
Banker 2: “It’s not held, so whatever.”
Say you’re partying at PH-D at the Dream Downtown and your Managing Director decides to buy a bunch of bottles of Grey Goose. That is an uptick.
18. “Traded ahead”
You beat someone to the punch. It’s a technical term, yes, but if a Banker 1 is eyeing a girl at the bar and Banker 2 goes and talks to her first…
The next day at the office, Banker 2 to Banker 1: “Sorry bro, traded ahead.”
19. “The staffer’s coming.”
This would usually be salted with expletives, and followed by junior bankers scurrying. The staffer is the usually the very unhappy VP who has to give assignments to analysts and associates, often at night or on the weekends.
20. “What is your schedule this weekend?”
In most work environments, this could be a friendly question or perhaps a segue into a negotiation about working a bit on Sunday. On Wall Street, from the staffer, it means whatever plans you had are canceled.
21. “Can you give me some more colour on that?
This is a request for additional details, something that you’ll hear analysts ask on earnings calls. In conversation, it’d more likely be asking for details about a night out.
22. “I’m doing market research.”
Looking at YouTube.
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