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For What It’s Worth

For What It’s Worth: Mortgage

By Joel Dresang
We associate the clause “till death do us part” with a marriage vow. Etymologically, though, it should be part of a mortgage. […]

For What It’s Worth: Circuit breakers

Steep stock sell-offs accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic triggered automatic interruptions meant to let stock traders pause amid pandemonium. So-called circuit breakers are supposed to halt trading at different points of severe stock slides and are byproducts of the historic 22.6% free fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in October 1987. […]

For What It’s Worth: Volatility

The word “volatility” describes stock prices taking off then plummeting, soaring like an eagle, then diving like a loon. For What It’s Worth is an occasional look at the meanings and origins of words and expressions investors encounter. […]

For What It’s Worth: Black Friday

The common name for the day after Thanksgiving has more than one story behind it. One story dates back almost to the first national Thanksgiving holiday and has nothing to do with the occasion. Another uses “Black Friday” as a term of disparagement. A third story appears to be just made up. […]

For What It’s Worth: Silver Bullet

The expression “silver bullet” is a conflation of a medical term coined by a Nobel laureate and the calling card of a legendary lawman of the Old West. […]

For What It’s Worth: Skin in the Game

Credit for coining the term “skin in the game” commonly goes to the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett. But as wise and quotable as the billionaire is, the internet can easily overattribute him. As Yogi Berra is said to have said, “I never said most of the things I said.” […]

For What It’s Worth: Ballpark

In a nod to the Milwaukee Brewers and their postseason foray, our occasional exploration of the origins of financial expressions takes a swing at a common term that comes from America’s favorite pastime: Ballpark. […]

For What It’s Worth: Bulls and Bears

Bears and Bulls aren’t just the names of Chicago-based sports teams. They’re symbols of investor expectations. Since the 1700s, bears have been associated with investors anticipating prices will go down, while bulls believe prices are trending upward. As part of an occasional exploration of the origins of financial lingo, Joel Dresang hunts down how these creatures wound up on Wall Street. […]

For What It’s Worth: Palm Grease

The practice of slipping someone a bribe and saying you’re greasing their palm has been going on for centuries. […]

For What It’s Worth: Ducks in a Row

By Joel Dresang
I took a cue from a meme tweeted by the Internal Revenue Service. It encouraged taxpayers to prepare for the filing season by getting their “ducks in a row.” I am familiar with the expression, which means to get ready by arranging and organizing, by getting your facts straight. I wondered, though, about its origin. I wasn’t alone. […]

For What It’s Worth: Grain of Salt

When you’re advised to take something with a grain of salt, is it a matter of taste or wit? Joel Dresang explores the origins of a centuries-old idiom. For What It’s Worth is an occasional look at the etymology of common words and expressions used in personal finance and investing. […]

For What It’s Worth: Chair

For What It’s Worth is an occasional look at the meanings and origins of words and expressions investors may encounter. In this instance, we consider the preferred title for Janet Yellen, who’s seated at the head of the Federal Reserve. […]

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