phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

"going short", "going long"

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 14, 2007

In Reply to: "going short", "going long" posted by Brian from Shawnee on February 14, 2007

: : : : Where do the finance terms "selling short", "going short", "going long" etc. come from?

: : : These expressions are pretty straight forward:

: : :
: : : "Bears usually 'sell short,' selling stocks they do not own in the hope that by the time they must deliver the stock to the buyer, the price will have dropped and they can make a profit on the difference. A bull optimistically believes that the market is going up and so buys stock, taking the 'long' position, and expects to sell later at a profit." Page 57, "Wall Street Slang: High Steppers, Fallen Angels, & Lollipops" by Kathleen Odean (Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1988). And on Page 86 it says, "Most market players take 'long positions,' buying stocks with hopes that the price will go up.if the (market) order goes through and then the price goes down, the position proves to be 'long and wrong.'"

: : : See bull market, bear market at

: : It is about inadequacy.
: : In the English language, the word "short" is sometimes used to indicate an inadequacy, as in "short of cash" or "short of time." In finance, this usage is applied to situations where a party sells securities he does not possess. Such a sale is called a short sale because it creates for that party an inadequacy--a net negative position--in the sold security.
: : And so it easily follows then that the opposite of a short is the long position.

: I'd like to take exception with the Wall Street Slang book's use of the term "market player" to describe someone with a long position. That type of person would usually be called an "investor" whereas the short seller is the one playing the market. The guy who is "long and wrong" only risks losing his entire investment, but the short seller takes on a theoretically unlimited risk.

And it is often said that it was the number of people selling short that precipitated the stock market crash of 1929, although others point out that the market was in any case ripe for a crash. And gosh, Bruce, nice to hear from you.