How high can a dead cat bounce?

I recently re-read James Geary’s book, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World, published by Harper/An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers (2011). He observes:

“Finance and economics are the ultimate numbers games, yet commentators from Helsinki to Hong Kong instinctively use metaphors to describe what’s going on. Here are just a few of the more outlandish ones you might have come across in the financial news:”

Stock prices took a rollercoaster ride and ended up n the subway.

Optimists saw the makings of a baby bull, but naysayers warned that it could be a bum steer.

The question every trader will be asking himself this week is: Just how high can a dead cat bounce?

Geary goes on to observe, “‘Dead cat bounce’ is the term used to describe the feeble, temporary uptick in share prices that can follow a sudden, precipitous fall. The etymology of this particular metaphor is unclear, but one hopes it did not involve dropping an actual cat from a great height and measuring its rebound after impact.”

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Multiple media enable metaphor-makers, -mixers, and -manipulators continue to marinate us with such mischief, causing mayhem amidst malapropism.

I am reminded of a childhood friend’s Aunt Ginny whose observations make Yogi Berra seem like Professor Henry Higgins. She was never trying to be amusing and we always understood the meaning of whatever she said. Here are three of my personal favorites:

“He was born on a silver platter.”

“Deader than a doorknob.”

“She’s on a treadmill to Bolivia.”

Be constantly alert to the dangers of metaphors. They really can shape the way we see the world. As Aunt Ginny would say, it can happen “quicker than you can count to Jack Robinson.” Forewarned is forearmed…and four arms are two too many.


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