Our Daily Bleg: Wall Street Proverbs, Please

Here’s the latest guest bleg from Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Book of Quotations. His past blegs can be found here; send us your own bleg requests here.

The Motley Fool used my blegging for modern proverbs as an inspiration to write about “investing proverbs.”

Wall Street is indeed a rich source of memorable quotations, including: “Buy on the rumor, sell on the news”; “Sell in May and go away”; and “The trend is your friend.” Can Freakonomics readers suggest other investing proverbs?

P.S. — A number of readers have called upon me to include an answer section for my blegs. I intend to address this within the next few weeks.

Leave A Comment

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  1. Daniel Von Fange says:

    Buy when the blood is running in the streets.

    Buy low, sell high.

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  2. charles says:

    Bulls make money Bears make money pigs get slaughtered.

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  3. Shane says:

    God gave you eyes. Plagiarize. – quoted in Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

    Work smarter, not harder.

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  4. Broadway says:

    Don’t try to catch a falling knife

    The market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent. – Keynes

    You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out. – Buffet

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  5. Phil says:

    “Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful” — Warren Buffett

    “Buy the rumor, sell the fact”

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  6. James Burden says:

    “Buy on the sound of the cannon, Sell on the sound of the trumpet”, I read this quote in Ben Stein’s column on Yahoo Finance, it’s a great blog (as is this one).

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  7. Marton says:

    “Trees don’t grow to the sky.”

    “Even a dead cat will bounce if it drops from high enough.”

    “No one ever went broke taking profits.”

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  8. Drew says:

    “Even a dead cat can bounce”

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  9. Greg says:

    I remember an SNL skit after the ’87 crash. It was Wall Street Week with a guest named “Futureman” he had the best investing mantra ever:

    “Read old newspapers, look at historic charts, go back in time, buy low, sell high.”

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  10. Adam J. Fein says:

    The stock market is like a beauty contest. Don’t pick the prettiest girl; Pick the one everyone else thinks is the prettiest. (Keynes?)


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  11. luz says:

    “When there is blood on the streets, buy real estate”. Le Baron de Rothschild (so said Jodie Foster in 2006’s Inside Man).

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  12. ziggurat says:

    I like them in matched pairs:

    No one ever went broke taking profits – sell you losers and let your winners ride.

    Don’t fight the tape/the trend is your friend – buy when there is blood in the streets.

    I would be surprised if there are any cliches that don’t have an opposite.

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  13. DK1 says:

    “Where Are the Customers’ Yachts?” (Fred Schwed)

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  14. John says:

    From Keynes – In the long run, we’re all dead.

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  15. Bylo Selhi says:

    Pigs get fat. Hogs get slaughtered.

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  16. Justin says:

    October: This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February. (Mark Twain)

    Those who live by numbers can also perish by them and it is a terrifying thing to have an adding machine write an epitaph, either way. (George J.W. Goodman)

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  17. Erika says:

    Just to go with volume, a slight tweak to #2.
    Bears make money; bulls make money; pigs lose their shirt. Which I like better than slaughter, although now that I think on it, slaughter makes more sense than fashion losing hogs.

    I thought there were more of these aphorisms. I guess not.

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  18. Sail Boffin says:

    Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That’s the other guy’s problem. Nothing you have ever experienced will prepare you for the absolute carnage you are about to witness. Super Bowl, World Series – they don’t know what pressure is. In this building, it’s either kill or be killed. You make no friends in the pits and you take no prisoners. One minute you’re up half a million in soybeans and the next, boom, your kids don’t go to college and they’ve repossessed your Bentley. Are you with me? — Louis Winthorpe III

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  19. zbicyclist says:

    ziggurat (#12) listed some opposing pairs, reminding me of the law of cliches:

    “For every cliche, there is an equal and opposite cliche.”

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  20. Dan M says:

    Buy the dips, sell the rips.

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  21. Evan says:

    From the subprime mess, “A rolling loan gathers no loss.”

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  22. John R says:

    I’m a software engineer, but for the first five years of my career I worked for a hedge fund and sat with the traders at the trading desk. There are two bits of wisdom that I still recall, years later:

    1) Never confuse brains with a bull market.

    2) Never pay interest on a depreciating asset.

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  23. Kevin says:

    “Always leave a little bit on the table for the next guy.”

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  24. timmyp says:

    vol is toast, bring out the jam.

    they’re prices, not house numbers.

    i don’t pay you to think, i pay you to do.

    The road to hell is paved with positive carry

    I asked for the two-way price, not the high and low on the year

    want a friend, buy a dog.

    Its not the despair that gets you, its the hope.

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  25. John R says:

    (Different from the John R a few comments up)

    Don’t frown, double down.

    You’ll never go broke taking profits.

    (Both being bad advice, of course…)

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  26. the Gooch says:

    Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.

    –Gordon Gekko

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  27. Bob B. says:

    All models are wrong; some models are useful

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  28. Shahbaz says:

    In a sh*t storm, even turkeys fly

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  29. Tomj says:

    An ounce of emotion is equal to a ton of facts (John Junor).
    Markets climb up a wall of worry and sail down a river of hope (???).
    No one ever made a dime panicking (Jim Cramer).
    Losers average losers (Paul Tudor Jones).

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  30. Raju Mandal says:

    If you want excitement, watch a movie , it is cheaper

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  31. Jan Sand says:

    “Carry traders get carried away”

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  32. Craig H says:

    If you don’t know who you are Wall St. is an expensive place to find out. – Scarsdale Fats

    No matter how long you live there will always be a Beatles song you’ve never heard. – David Atkins

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  33. Guillaume Chaudemanche says:

    “Trading is a zero sum game”
    “A stock is never high enough to be bought or low enough to be sold” James Livermore.

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  34. Desi says:

    “The four most expensive words in the English language are ‘This time it’s different’.”
    — Edward Chancellor

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  35. deepak says:

    How to make 1 million in the stock market???

    Simple, start with 2 million.

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  36. John says:

    “Buy High, Sell Higher”

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  37. Dan says:

    All ships rise when the tide rises.
    Every sunken ship has a chart on it.
    Never short a dull tape.
    If there’s one roach, there’s likely more.

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  38. sjd says:

    Real estate always busts, every where, in every age. Even your granny’s house. It’s shelter or decoration. It’s only an investment if you admit at the outset you are chronically undisciplined, but how would that make you a good bet for a 30year fixed?

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  39. Charlie Echo says:

    A cotton farmer sends his employee to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to gather information on the price of cotton and receives this message back: “Some traders think the price will go up, others believe the price will fall. Whatever you do act at once!”

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