When it comes to describing finance and the markets, there are many buzz animals used to paint a picture in an attempt to bring it to life.
A bull market, where share prices are charging ahead and a bear market, where prices retreat and go into hibernation, and the mythical unicorn – a start-up company valued at more than $1million.
There are other common terms that have entered the English language, such as loan shark, piggy bank and rat race.
But there are also some bizarre ones you might not have heard of, including purple squirrel, narwhal and hamsterkauf.
Hamsterkauf vs purple squirrel: Do you know these more unusual business animals?
New book, Bear Markets and Beyond: A Bestiary of Business Terms, written by Dhruti Shah and illustrated by Dominic Bailey, rounds-up all of the business animals into one place – a Noah’s Ark of terminology if you will.
This is Money asked them to pick six of their favourite unusual animals from the book, and describe what they mean…
1. Bulldog Bonds
What about ‘man’s best friend’? Yes, dogs turn up in the world of business too.
When foreign banks or firms want to raise money from investors in the UK in British Pounds Sterling, they may issue bulldog bonds.
It might be helpful here to break down what bonds actually are, so we turned to BBC World Service economics expert Andrew Walker to give us a general overview.
He delivered and we learn ‘in short it is an IOU that can be traded in the financial markets’.
Governments, official agencies and businesses can all sell bonds. Those who invest do so as they then get a stream of future payments.
When a firm is in need of foreign currency or anticipates favourable interest rates in a foreign market, they will choose that national bond market to trade in. Woof!
Bulldog bonds: When foreign banks or firms want to raise money from investors in the UK in British Pounds Sterling, they may issue bulldog bonds
A Canadian tech startup valued at more than $1billion Canadian dollars and which was founded after 1999 can be described as a Narwhal.
The term was coined by Brent Holliday, chief executive of Vancouver company Garibaldi Capital Advisors.
He chose the name as he ‘understood the narwhal’s horn was to break through the ice because they’re mammals and have to breathe, so that’s a great metaphor’.
The tusks actually seem to be for sensory purposes but Holliday dismissed that and preferred to keep the original term.
It has now gained wider usage and is often seen as a mascot for Canada’s best performing companies – a unicorn of the sea.
Narwhal vs vampire squid: While a start-up unicorn is widely known, a narwhal might not be as familiar to most – while the term vampire squid has stuck to US banking giant Goldman Sachs
3. Vampire Squid
This expression came out of a famous Rolling Stone profile on Goldman Sachs, written by the journalist Matt Taibbi 2009.
He said: ‘The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money’.
He was writing in the context of the 2008 global financial crash and its aftermath but the label has stuck to the bank ever since.
In 2020, the world came to an unexpected standstill as Covid-19, a new strain of coronavirus, took hold.
Countries were put in lockdown, travel restrictions implemented and self-isolation measures put in place.
Despite attempts by governments to urge people to stay calm, customers seeking to stockpile led to a surge in demand for toilet roll, pasta and hand gel, among other commodities.
This also meant that hamsterkauf, a popular German word which translates to ‘hamster purchase’ came to the attention of the world.
It’s a word that represents panic buying and a rise in Google searches and instances of its use on Twitter show that’s just what was happening.
People were posting images of empty supermarket shelves and using the German phrase as a hashtag to comment on the trend.
Hamsters love to hoard food in their cheek pouches, but with even pet food running out, there were concerns about the ramifications these stockpiling ‘hamsters’ were doing to global supply chains.
5. Purple Squirrel
If you can find a purple squirrel, then my friend, you have something highly desirable in your sights.
The mythical rodent is, in recruiter circles, ‘the perfect candidate’. They have every quality going that your business needs.
They tick every box going: they have the right education, the right experience, the best attitude and the perfect qualifications. Ding, ding, ding – we have a winner.
However, while they might sound like a delight, critics warn that if rare purple squirrels ever get found, it’s not necessarily good news for the rest of the workforce as it could mean fewer jobs are available.
Also how on earth does this squirrel find time to keep across everything especially as roles evolve?
Cluck, cluck: A chicken investor clucks around with no particular plan
6. Chicken Investor
Cluck, cluck, cluck – here you have a chicken investor.
The challenge with these domesticated birds is that they are deathly afraid – of everything.
And chicken investors approach the market with the same kind of trepidation.
They cluck around with no particular plan.
They are spooked by any kind of loss and fear easily overrides common sense.
But this means they never stand a chance to make any type of gain.
We’ve seen that the bulls get paired with the bears; well for some reason (perhaps the farmyard proximity), the chickens often seem to get paired with pigs.
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