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The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Zweig has been writing about money for a long time. This sort of lengthy familiarity with a subject can often breed an interest in etymology, particularly the etymology of one’s own chosen subject. And so it has. But Messr. Zweig is not content to write a fusty old tome of financial terms. No, Zweig is an aficionado of the great nihilist Ambrose Bierce, and aspires to be a 21st-century Bierce for readers of this blog. What does that mean for the uninitiated? Here are a few relevant takes from the imperishable The Devil’s Dictionary, which is in the public domain and therefore able to be quoted at length without having to explain the concept of fair use to an angry person.
FINANCE, n. The art or science of managing revenues and resources for the best advantage of the manager. The pronunciation of this word with the i long and the accent on the first syllable is one of America's most precious discoveries and possessions.
PANDEMONIUM, n. Literally, the Place of All the Demons. Most of them have escaped into politics and finance, and the place is now used as a lecture hall by the Audible Reformer. When disturbed by his voice the ancient echoes clamor appropriate responses most gratifying to his pride of distinction.
WALL STREET, n. A symbol for sin for every devil to rebuke. That Wall Street is a den of thieves is a belief that serves every unsuccessful thief in place of a hope in Heaven.
And if you’re interested in the origins of the words “stock” and “crash,” both of which can be found after “bubble,” he’s got your back.