Stock Talk Hyperbole [Fribble] April 4, 2000

Fribble Stock Talk Hyperbole

By Jake Poinier (
April 4, 2000

Harry Potter is the serial-novel hero nowadays (even my three-year-old daughter says, "He's my boy") but do you remember Tom Swift? In several dozen science-fiction adventures in the 1950s through the '70s, Tom fooled around with giant robots, atomic earth blasters, and diving seacopters. One of the quirks of the books was that he rarely "said" anything -- he always "responded," or "retorted," or "rejoined." The use of such verbs was supposed to keep you excited, I suppose, but the net effect was pretty overbearing and tiring to read.

Now, take a look at the text from a recent CNNfn report: "Cisco Systems shed 2-7/16 to 73-5/8; JDS Uniphase dipped 3-1/8 to 116-1/4; International Paper rose 2-5/16 to 40-1/8; Wal-Mart climbed 1/2 to 59-1/4; Philip Morris gained 2-1/8 to 21-1/4." Today, Commerce One and both "plunged." (Even the Fool on the Hill noted that e.spire got "shelled.") And next week, someone will undoubtedly get "punished," while others will "plummet." Is there a spreadsheet somewhere that calculates how large a drop qualifies for "plummet" status?

Bottom line: The financial media suffers from the same challenge that Tom Swift had in capturing the minds of adolescent boys. Don't worry, I won't belabor the adolescent boy/daytrader analogy, but suffice it to say that it's an audience with a short attention span and a penchant for moodiness. The result is a mind-numbing din of hyperbole, precisely what Fool Bill Barker has detailed in his recent 24-hours-of-CNBC experiment, and what David Gardner is seeking to combat by instituting a "percentages-not-points" policy in the Rule Breaker Port.

Want a more elegant solution? The Motley Fool's Quotes & Data function has a little green smiley face when a stock goes up and a little red sad face when it goes down. You can decide for yourself what hyperbolic verb you'd like to insert.