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Off topic: What do Luciano Pavarotti, a sandbag and a pony have in common?
Thread poster: lim0nka

lim0nka  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:57
Member (2004)
English to Polish
Feb 13, 2003


London Traders Use Slang For Accuracy and Laughs;

A Carpet for Ayrton Senna?


What do Luciano Pavarotti, a sandbag and a pony have in common? They are all part of the slang flying around London dealing rooms.

Traders the world over have long substituted slang for numbers to avoid misunderstandings or, in most cases, simply to lighten up what could be a stressful job in a raucous trading pit.

Nowhere has the slang been thicker than in London, home to some of the world\'s oldest and biggest markets.

During the past decade or so, computer trading has killed off many an exchange\'s open outcry system and taken the colorful patter with it.

Not in London, though, where traders still deal in Pavarottis, bags of sand and ponies.

\"Pavarotti\" is shorthand for \"10,\" because the Italian opera singer is, of course, a tenor. And a tenor is a homonym for \"tenner,\" yet another British slang word for 10. A \"bag of sand\" denotes 1,000, because sand rhymes with \"grand,\" a pretty well-known expression for 1,000. \"Pony\" means 25, though its origins are murky. Some say the term comes from India, once a British colony, where the 25-rupee note had a picture of a horse on it.

So, if London traders no longer cling to their dealing-room slang out of necessity, why do they still speak in tongues? Slang experts say they do it to alleviate boredom on quiet days or to make otherwise repetitive data entry a bit more interesting.

Social anthropologists would probably also suggest the banter helps define them as a group. Man isn\'t a solitary animal. We want to belong. And slang helps determine where you belong.

Jonathon Green, author of the definitive \"Cassell\'s Dictionary of Slang,\" says slang defines what living and working in an urban setting is all about.

“Above all, it is the language of the city – urgent, pointed, witty, cruel, capable both of excluding and including, of mocking and confirming,\" he says.

London dealers acknowledge the push to go electronic has gradually eroded their use of trading slang. These days, customers find trading slang pretty obscure.

But traders say slang is far too embedded into their culture and profession to abandon it.

\"We still use slang – most people will know what ‘a carpet for an Ayrton Senna’ means,\" says one London futures broker with a French bank. \"But we now tend to use it more between ourselves than when dealing with outside clients, just because of the risk of errors.\" A \"carpet for Ayrton Senna,\" by the way, has nothing to do with what is on the floor of the late Brazilian race-car driver\'s house. It means someone is willing to pay 0.03 percentage point above a certain rate for 10 contracts of something.


London dealing room slang expressions

* Spaniard = One, from common Spanish name “Juan.”

* Pavarotti = 10, for the famous tenor (“tenner”) Luciano.

* Prince Charles = 12, or “one dozen,” from the royal heir’s use of “one does” to start sentences.

* Pony = 25, from picture of a horse on 25-rupee note when India was British colony.

* Hawaiian or McGarrett = 50, from the 1970s TV show Hawaii Five-0.

* Bar = 1 million.

* Yard = 1 billion.

The Wall Street Journal Europe

Thursday, February 13, 2003

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Ralf Lemster  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:57
English to German
+ ...
Brilliant! Got me nostalgic... Feb 24, 2003

...this brings me back to my active days as a futures trader in the City of London, and on the floor of LIFFE (when it still had one - nowadays, the vast majority of contracts worldwide \"changes hands\" electronically... Chicago and Singapore being among the \"last bastions\").

There are two aspects of \"trader speak\" that the article is missing:

- Getting it short, but getting it right

If you ever had the chance of looking at a trading floor going at full speed, you will appreciate that \"Ahem... excuse me, sir, would you kindly quote me which interest rate you would pay on an interbank deposit of two billion pound sterling from tomorrow to the day after, please?\" doesn\'t get you far - by the time you finish the sentence, the market will have moved. (The correct solution is: \"Oi! What\'s your bid in two yards sterling tom/next? Now!?!?!?\" - just in case you were wondering...) Some of these \"special terms\" simply emanated as a matter to shorten things without running the risk of misunderstandings.

- Scream, but still get it right.

Picture this: you\'re working the phones on a open outcry trading floor. Your client is calling you from a noisy trading room, occasionally yelling an order at you - which you need to signal into the trading pit, where 150-500 traders are screaming at each other. Got the feeling? To avoid misunderstandings, a very clear language code emanated: \"pay [price] for [quantity]\" / \"sell [quantity] at [price]\". Not only did this tie in nicely with hand signs (sorry I can\'t show\'em here...), but it also meant if somebody screamed \"AT 2!!!\", he wanted to sell at a price of 2 (the rest is assumed to be known, e.g. if the Bund Future was trading around 108.50, \"at 2\" means that you\'re selling at 108.52 - simple, really...). Confusion reigned when in the late eighties some German customers insisted on calling the exchange floor directly: \"Ahem... I buy twenty contracts at twenty-four...\" [Broker] \"At 24? Ok... done! You sold twenty at four - thank you.\" [Customer] \"Er... I wanted to buy...???\"

Thanks for bringing this up!

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Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:57
Portuguese to English
+ ...
More Money Slang Mar 10, 2008

Not sure if these are used in trading floors, but my slang dictionary has a few more terms:

Monkey = five hundred pounds

Gorilla = one thousand pounds

Half a ton = fifty pounds

Half a nicker = half a pound, or 50p

Cow and calf = one pound and fifty pence

Cock and hen = ten pounds

These come from the excellent book "Modern British Slang" by Ewart James (São Paulo: SBS, 1998)

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What do Luciano Pavarotti, a sandbag and a pony have in common?

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