DEAD CAT BOUNCE
One Friday last October, I found myself in Tunisia and heard that the Asian
stock markets had crashed. Everyone knew what would follow on Monday.
MORRIS THE CAT: Time for din-din!
Excuse me. My apartment has been invaded by an imaginary dead cat!
POPIK: Aren't you dead??
MORRIS THE CAT: Nine lives.
Several days later, I got the results from that Monday. Then I didn't get
another paper for several days!! I joked that I had lost all of my money in
ancient Carthage. A guy had Rome and told me he'd spot me two Punic Wars.
Also on my tour was Barbara Nicholson, a really nice, fabulous (now
retired) woman in her late forties who had made money in the '80s bond market
as head of her own firm. I told her it might be time to buy. She immediately
replied: "Beware of the dead cat bounce."
MORRIS THE CAT: I'm an etymologist, too. I cat-alog words.
MORRIS THE CAT: I have a book!
MORRIS THE CAT: The MORRIS BOOK OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS.
POPIK: THAT'S AN AWFUL PUN!! THAT'S IT! OUT THE WINDOW!
Gosh, you'd think you'd get more of a bounce from seven flights.
Anyway, William Safire had the phrase in his column and traced it (Nexis
search) to an Asian trader. It doesn't come from Asia, however. Barbara
Nicholson insisted that it was simply a play on those 100 USES FOR A DEAD CAT
books by Simon Bond.
The phrase is shockingly not in the RHHDAS (which also doesn't have
"January Effect"). Jerry Dunn's recent IDIOM SAVANT lists Wall Street slang,
but has not one of these three terms. Anne Soukhanov's SPEAKING FREELY has a
chapter on Wall Street, but likewise excludes all three terms.
A Wall Street historical dictionary is really needed!
"Dead cat bounce" plays on the old legend that a cat, if dropped from any
height, always lands on its paws. "Dead cat bounce" is a little different in
that the cat that's dropped from the height is already dead. It will bounce
up very little after the great fall. A stock market "dead cat bounce" is not
a true recovery.
MORRIS THE CAT: Seven more lives!