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Published: Dec 09, 2021 8 min read

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Sam Island for Money

Welcome to 2021, where 💎🙌 and 🚀📈 and 🍗 might actually dictate what you do with your money.

It seems far-fetched, but emojis, slang and just plain jokes are the new language of investing. And this fresh way of talking about the stock market didn’t come from Wall Street; it came from everyday people, sitting in their home offices, college dorm rooms or even high schools.

Gone are the days where investors had to visit their brokers in person, or even pick up the phone. Now, they trade stocks, funds and cryptocurrency via apps in a matter of seconds.

And instead of congregating on the stock exchange floor, these investors gather in online spaces. The subreddit r/WallStreetBets — where retail traders teamed up on social media earlier this year to send GameStop’s stock price soaring — is the most famous. But many less rowdy places like Twitter and Discord have big fan bases.

Many of these online communities have developed their own distinctive subcultures — and lingos. And as trading stocks and cryptocurrencies have gained mainstream attention in the past few years, so has the new vocabulary.

That's something unusual for the world of investing: Stock market slang has typically been top-down, coming from institutional investors and trading floors and filtered out through brokerages to individual investors. Think old-school terms like: "dead cat bounce" or "economic moat." Now, thanks to the Internet, slang is bubbling up.

When online communities create their own language, it's a way of signaling "we belong to this community," says Jessa Lingel, associate professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

As social media platforms have become a go-to place for investors to share their successes and failures, post their stock tips and learn from one another, they now have that community to help navigate the wild world of investing.

The Glossary

There are tons of words and emojis these communities are using, and new ones are popping up every day. Here’s a quick run-down of the need-to-know words and phrases:

Apes (🦍): This is a term for retail investors who are bullish on heavily-shorted stocks like GameStop and AMC. Everyday investors in r/WallStreetBets tend to call themselves "apes" (and also... "degenerates").

Bag holder: A bag holder is an investor who is holding onto an asset that consistently does poorly, often with the belief that the price will turn around. It likely comes from the phrase "holding the bag," i.e. the one who gets caught while others who are equally guilty escape.

Buy the dip: This is an actual investing strategy, but it’s recently become a favorite among the Reddit and Twitter crowd. It refers to buying a stock or cryptocurrency right after a temporary price drop.

Diamond hands (💎🙌): Diamond hands are investors who hold on to their positions — no matter the headwinds or losses — often with an end goal that other investors in the community share, like sending a stock soaring. For example, a Reddit user recently posted in r/WallStreetBets, “GME til I die baby 💎🙌” about holding on to GameStop’s stock.

HODL: A popular term among crypto investors, HODL started as just your everyday typo. In 2013, a poster by the name of GameKyuubi wrote "I AM HODLING" in a Bitcointalk forum. He went on to explain why he was holding his Bitcoin (and admitted to having had "some whiskey"). Now, HODL refers to "hold on for dear life" — as in, hold onto your crypto for the long term.

Mooning: Yes, this has another, NSFW meaning. But in the investing world, "mooning" is used when referring to a crypto's price increasing. For example, “Doge is mooning!” means that Dogecoin’s price is currently spiking. Traders will also say an asset is “going to the moon 🌙.”

Paper hands (🧻🤲): Paper hands are the opposite of diamond hands. They may have the same goal as diamond hands, but they sell the asset at the first sign of it going south.

Pump and dump: Pumping and dumping is when traders band together to promote an asset, like a crypto coin, so that its price jumps, then they sell it when the price hits a certain point. The term has been around for decades, but has gained a new popularity among the crypto crowd. The pumpers will make money off selling the asset at a high, but everyone else has the potential to lose money. It’s an illegal scheme on regulated exchanges, but since some crypto exchanges are unregulated, it can be hard to catch these bad actors.

Rocket ships (🚀): A rocket ship emoji indicates that the poster thinks that asset is going to soar. It’s often used with the phrase “to the moon” or accompanied by the chart emoji (📈).

Stonks: Originated from a 2017 meme, the intentional misspelling of "stock" is just a funny way to refer to the stock market that's even made its way to Merriam-Webster's site. The dictionary says stonks is often used humorously to "imply a vague understanding of financial transactions or poor financial decisions." Elon Musk likes it, too.

Tendies (🍗): Short for chicken tenders, this slang refers to the financial profits investors get on their investments. It was popularized on the site 4chan in the mid-2010s in fictional stories where adult men would say chicken tenders were their favorite food and later came to Reddit and used to refer to what people would buy with their wins (again, chicken tenders). Eventually, "tendies" became a name for those wins.

Whale (🐳): A “whale” is someone who owns a huge volume of a cryptocurrency — enough that their trading activity can impact the price of a cryptocurrency. This term isn't new; casinos call big gamblers "whales" as well. But the name made it's way into the investing world with "the London Whale," a trading scandal involving large trades in credit default swaps (a complex instrument that allows an investor to offset their credit risk) that lost JPMorgan Chase & Co. at least $6.2 billion in 2012.

YOLO: An abbreviation for “you only live once,” YOLO became a popular term to justify expensive vacations or impulsive bungee jumping. But investors have adopted the meaning to explain big gambling-like investing decisions. In the subreddit r/WallStreetBets, last year one user wrote that they “Yolo’d 10k (life savings) into Tesla” while another said “Took my dads life savings and Yolo’d into BB.” BB is the stock ticker symbol for BlackBerry, a meme stock.

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