Say What?

The $5.3 trillion a day foreign exchange market had, until recently, a decades old language of its own. This “language” went back to the days before electronic trading when trades were done between counterparts orally – Bank to Bank on the phone, Banks to brokers down a squawk line, telex or Reuters Dealing (a precursor to today’s messaging apps). It was a mixture of horse racing/betting terms, cockney rhyming slang (from the east end of London) and market “speak”.

With the proliferation of electronic trading this “language” has all but died out. However there are still many words and phrases in everyday FX trading use.

The following are terms/phrases used and their explanations/meanings:

• Cable: the term used for GBP/USD. It goes back to the mid-19th century and refers to the first subterranean cable between the USA and the UK. This cable fed data from London to the US Financial exchanges.
• Yard: refers to a Billion of something. Generally it is believed to come from a shortened version of the French word for Billion being “Milliard”.
• Bill & Ben: refers to Yen. This is from a popular UK TV children’s show from the 1960’s. Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men. It is just simple rhyming slang.
• Spaniard: refers to the number 1. Again rhyming slang…. A Spanish man called Juan!
• Prickly or Prickly Pear: Rhyming slang for a pair or 2
• Carpet: refers to the number 3. Could be rhyming slang for carpet “flea” but the old British prison system allowed an inmate a carpet in his cell after 3 years jail time!
• A Desmond: Refers to the number 4. The former South African civil rights activist Desmond Tutu. Tu (2) + tu (2) equals 4!!
• Lady or Lady Godiver: You guessed it slang for a fiver (5)
• Ayrton: refers to the number 10. The, sadly deceased and former great Formula 1 racing driver, Ayrton Senna. Senna rhymes with tenner!
• Score: refers to the number 20. This relates back to old English where a shepherd would count his flock of sheep, and for every 20 sheep he counted, he would place a notch or “score” on his Shepherds Crook.
• Pony: refers to the number 25. From the old slaughter house days. When a Pony was unable to work it was taken to the slaughter house. So, sadly, slaughter rhymes with quarter.
• Bullseye: refers to the number 50. The point value of a bullseye on a dart board.
• A Monkey: refers to the number 500: The 500 Indian Rupee note used to have an image of a monkey on it!
• A Stewards: A horse racing term for a steward’s enquiry whereby the outcome of a race was being checked. A Steward enquiry therefore meant that a trade was being checked/questioned.
• Kiwi: refers to NZDUSD. The Kiwi is the national bird of New Zealand
• Loonie: refers to Canadian Dollar. The Loon is a bird depicted on a Canadian $1 coin.
• Stockie: refers to the Swedish Krona
• Nockie: refers to the Norwegian Krona

These are but a few of the most commonly used terms that are still occasionally heard in large global dealing rooms. If you have any to add please let us know.

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