Friday, October 10, 2008

Financial Crisis - A Perfect Learning Opportunity!

Do you know the expression "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?" It means that when things are going badly, you should try to find the positive. Look for opportunity even when things seem hopeless.

Here, in the height of the financial crisis - when it doesn't seem to be possible that things can get any worse (famous last words!) - we have the opportunity to learn some new vocabulary and improve our English. The vocabulary of crisis! Join me as I squeeze some lemons at the end of a very rough week and explore a few important English expressions.

From an article in the Wall Street Journal today:

Wild Day Caps Worst Week Ever for Stocks: Dow Swings 1019 Points in Index's Most-Volatile Session; Despite 'Fire-Sale Prices,' Buyers Mostly Stand Back

The Dow Jones Industrial Average capped the worst week in its 112-year history with its most volatile day ever, as hopes for a major international bank-rescue plan were overwhelmed at day's end by another wave of selling.

Some investors who normally would be jumping to buy beaten-down stocks after a 22% decline over eight trading days said the relentless declines have left them shell-shocked and unwilling to take new risks. Some spent the day trying to protect themselves from further declines.


Okay, time to make that lemonade and learn some vocabulary:


fire-sale prices: cheap prices; low prices; prices much lower than normal. This American expression originally meant goods actually damaged by a fire. They were sold at a reduced price due to the fire damage.

(to) stand back: to wait; to not take any action.

volatile: when talking about stocks, this means that they tend to go up and down a lot. Over the past week, the stock market has been very volatile!

beaten-down: lowered; depressed - beaten-down stocks are ones that have been sold heavily. Their prices are much lower than before. People with beaten-down stocks are likely to also feel beaten-down (as in sad or depressed).

shell-shocked: confused; stunned; suffering from an unexpected difficulty. This term comes to us from World War 1. Many soldiers suffered great trauma - then called "shell shock" and now referred to more commonly as "post-traumatic stress." People who watch their retirement plans shrink up or their life savings go down are most understandably shell-shocked!

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