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On the bubble

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 05, 2007

In Reply to: On the bubble posted by ESC on May 04, 2007

: : Does anyone know about "on the bubble?" I'm guessing that the image is of a spirit level. Any insight into when or how the phrase entered everyday speech as meaning something like "could go either way" or "up in the air"? There's a poker usage that seems a little different:

: That would be my guess too. I thought we'd discussed this phrase here before. But I couldn't find it in the archives.

Help! We need context. Someone engaged in adventures in the stock market or other speculative enterprise could be "on the bubble" if he is trading on the stock market, or housing market, or futures trading market, while it is in an inflationary state, as in "bubble-conomy, or "housing bubble," or possibly "pork-belly futures bubble." (I haven't actually heard that last one.) It's called a bubble because what you see doesn't reveal that the inside is empty, as when prices no longer reflect earnings or other value. If the bubble bursts (like a bubble-gum bubble), as in the case of the 1929 stock market crash, investors are no longer on the bubble, but get dumped into reality.