Opening Doors

Figuratively Speaking

When it comes to investing, don't believe everything you hear.

The media love "top" lists, and we're no exception. This month, we get a little help from Louis Rukeyser'sBook of Lists (Henry Holt and Co. Inc.). The subject? Mary Farrell's List of the Top 10 Euphemisms When an Investment is Wrong. Farrell, a small-business investment expert, helps entrepreneurs read between the lines:

1. "The company's expenses were unexpectedly high."

Translation: I overestimated margins.

2. "Sales were less than expected."

Translation: I didn't notice all those competitors fighting for market share.

3. "Unseasonably cold weather hurt sales in the first quarter."

Translation: Of course it's always cold January through March, but I don't want to admit I was wrong.

4. "Earnings were disappointing."

Translation: Not for the company, which was right on plan, but I was hoping for a miracle to bail out this recommendation.

5. "We had a major earnings shortfall."

Translation: I don't have a clue what's going on.

6. "I'm fine-tuning my estimate."

Translation: What's a 50-percent cut among friends?

7. "Although our long-term recommendations remain intact, there are a few short-term problems."

Translation: Thank God in the long run, we'll all be dead and I won't have to answer for this fiasco.

8. "Management is unavailable for comment."

Translation: At least I've bought a little time to think up a creative explanation for this disaster.

9. "This correction is a good buying opportunity."

Translation: Stocks are in free fall.

10. "I'm downgrading to a neutral."

Translation: SELL, SELL, SELL.

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This article was originally published in the August 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Opening Doors.

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