Dead Cats Don’t Bounce

As an active participant in the editorial community, I hardly ever run across interesting, complex, brow-furrowing phrases that set me apart professionally.

Every career niche seems to have its own in-crowd phrasing. When I was in advertising, phrases like “what’s the spiff?” or the acronym AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action) or “let’s deadhead that one” or “pica pole” or “targeted market” were all buzzwords that set me apart as an in-the-know professional. In fact, although now outdated due to online pagination, I still have two pica poles that are very dear to my heart and collectible relics of the rapidly-changing newspaper industry.

My husband, whose profession involves Internet technology, speaks an entire language I do not understand, but I listen patiently and appear interested even though I have no idea what he is talking about.

This is what a good and dedicated wife does, of course.

Some of his catch-phrases include: “iterative approach” and “waterfall” and “MITA” and “As-Is” or “To-Be” processes, “use case development” and — my absolute favorite — “the red ball of death,” although I suspect he may have made up the last one.

I love the phrase, “red ball of death,” and visualize a red ball on-screen, bouncing over depressing song lyrics, encouraging the participant to dissolve into a puddle of despair. I am trying to figure out where to sprinkle in this delightful, morose phrase amongst the conversationally elite.

Thus far, as a humor columnist, the editorial phrases I have run across include, “query process” (the process whereby a relatively unknown columnist is repeatedly turned down by editors in various publications across the country) and “first right of publication” and “author bio” and various, rather innocuous, everyone-knows-what-it-means phrases. These are uninteresting and stodgy, actually.

Recently, in a random Internet search, I ran across the fascinating phrase, “dead cat bounce.”

Time jerked to a stop for me right then and there. Fascinating visuals and metaphors screamed through my mind. Only those in the industry (I am assuming) can intelligently discuss the dead cat bounce. This would not include me, but as a writer I can claim creative license and sling it all over the place in misplaced and inappropriate connotations.

Upon further Google searching, I found this industry also features wonderful phrases such as: “riding the bear towards the bull,” “surviving bear country,” “dawn raid,” “triple witching,” “witching hours” and “vanilla derivatives.”

The possibilities for protracted double entendre are endless.

I am speaking, of course, of the investment services industry, which for me, and apparently most of America, has always been shrouded in secrecy. Well, no wonder. The phraseology adopted by this industry sounds a bit like a wild ride through a haunted graveyard in Montana.

In my humble opinion, financial planning should be simple and easily translatable: mostly two-syllable, salt-of-the-earth words that mean savings account, retirement account and checking account. This strategy, however, is mystifying to financial analysts trying to help us invest wisely, because they have been indoctrinated in triple witching and dawn raids and bullish tendencies.

Which is why I don’t communicate very well with most of them.

After running across the various phrases described above, I have reinforced my intuitive desire to streamline my assets instead of maxing out my vanilla derivatives by double or triple witching, which, of course is impossible, because the witching hours dictate the actual witching. I have never been overly fond of witches, for the record.

I would be extremely cautious of a dawn raid; in which I may survive bear country, but not actually experience the bear market rally. At no time, now or ever, would I desire to ride the bear towards the bull; and in fact, have no desire to be in the actual presence of a bear or its progeny. Especially if it is running toward a bull.

If my stock options expire at high noon during witching hours, I may be forced to strap on my hedge funds and ride the red ball of death towards the dead cat bounce. As I understand it, should this activity transpire, I should stay calm, play dead and keep my eyes open for attractive young bulls.

If the investment business does not work out for some of the professionals that actually understand this stuff, then a whole new field awaits them as a writer.

They would have the coolest metaphors of anybody I know

Facebook Hazardous to Parent’s Health

I figured when my kids were grown that I would be a much calmer, less manic, gentler, non-anxious woman.

Out of sight, out of mind and all that. Plus, I thought they might possibly become more self-sustaining, wise and educated — perhaps even mature

I took every opportunity to cram copious amounts of wisdom into them by the time they approached their early 20’s. My job was somewhat — at least the challenging, hands-on part — accomplished.

Then along came Facebook.

My life as a mother of adult children has forever been altered by becoming a ‘Friend’ on their Facebook accounts. I am now privy to feelings, declarations, posted photos of activities, friends’ comments, and various assorted and sundry revelations that I probably should not know about.

When my sons (who are band junkies) post lyrics to current songs that are seemingly indicative of their mental state, my heart pounces out of my chest.

Who writes this stuff anyway? Life must be ponderous and paranoia-laden for young adults these days. These postings elicit immediate texts, voicemails  and concerned email messages from their mother, much to their chagrin.

Recently my youngest son posted on his status: “Only after disaster can we be resurrected.”


I am immediately concerned that my son is contemplating a recent disaster, or anticipating one. What if he is creating one? I leap to fearful conclusions and set in motion a flurry of motherly contact to find out what is going on in his head.

After 142 attempts, he finally answers his phone:

“Son? Hi honey, how are you?”

Yawn. Sigh. “Mmmph. Just got up. Stayed up late.” Yawn.

“Oh. Is everything okay?” My voice rises a notch.

“Yeah. Why?”

“Well, I saw your status on Facebook – what is up with that anyway?” Heart rate elevates.

“MOM! Have you been reading my posts again? I am gonna block you, I swear!”

Mom, slightly miffed. “I am your mother. If something is wrong, I want to know. Why did you post that depressing thought? Are you depressed? Have you been in trouble? Had an accident?”

Pause to take a breath.

“Song lyric, Mom. They are always song lyrics. You don’t understand. That lyric is from a rap band.”

“A RAP BAND?” My silent disapproval lingers in the air a few seconds, and then I tell myself to back off, that he was fine and that was what mattered.

He heaves a long-suffering, resigned sigh. “Mom, I really like rap, and I just thought those lyrics were pretty cool.”

This conversation was one of the better ones, and ended well.

I shouldn’t Facebook and freak out. Better to wait a few hours after I read one of their more acute and angst-ridden postings before I allow motherly anxiety full sway.

This would give me time to pray for patience and wisdom, which would perhaps lend itself to more self-controlled, peaceable communication. They each threaten to block me, depending on pressure exerted by my escalating emotions at the time.

I am wiser now, and less apt to accost them with hysterics. I do not want them to block me.

I remember tip-toeing into their bedrooms in their adolescent years and sneaking a peak at their private stash of information. I unabashedly snooped at every opportunity, being the vigilant and over-protective parent that I am. Was. Whatever.

I have decided to adopt a new approach. I will pretend to have little interest in their Facebook activities, and drop hints that I am becoming bored with this site. I can visualize all four of them taking deep, collective sighs of relief.

I will continue, however, to slyly and regularly read their Facebook postings, digest the information, and internalize it for future utilization at the appropriate time.

But this is the thing. I am hands-on and pro-actively mothering much longer than necessary and it is wearing me out.

Facebook might want to incorporate parental “Friending” controls that would whitewash post-age-18 Facebook comments with replacement phrases like “I intend to finish college” and “I aced that exam” and “Cigarettes? Alcohol? Never touch the stuff.”

Sometimes — especially when Facebook and my stress level are involved — ignorance is bliss.

Article first published in “The Lighter Side,” Capital Journal, Pierre, SD, December 2009