Friday, April 25, 2008

Not Safe for Work

Stranger: "There's just one thing, Dude."
Dude: "And what's that?"
Stranger: "Do you have to use so many cuss words?"
Dude: "What the fuck you talkin' about?"
Stranger: "Okay, Dude. Have it your way."

The Big Lebowski

In between dusting off my snowglobe collection and watching my backlog of "Highly Probable" M&A deals drift into the "Maybe, But Don't Count on It" and the "Who the Fuck Do You Think You're Kidding?" columns of my revenue report, I have had plenty of time to contemplate the mysteries of modern life.

Like: did Al Gore really invent the internet? Does the "Prince of Wall Street" still have a job offer in Financial Sponsors at a "bulge bracket" bank? And, is it true that Equity Private and Dan Loeb plan to use a mixture of shredded 10-Qs and portfolio company business plans as confetti at their upcoming wedding scheduled for a secret location off the Dalmatian Coast?

We may never know the answers, Dear Readers, but certain questions are worth asking anyway, no?

Along similar lines, I have had little success puzzling out the method behind the madness of certain other sites in the blogosphere in linking to these pages. Given the uniform brilliance, concision, and topicality of the posts which I so modestly share with you here—with which assessment I am sure the cleverest of you will heartily agree—I am constantly surprised that every site in the econoblogosphere and beyond does not automatically link to each and every one immediately upon publication.

(This confusion of mine does not extend to those few websites—which shall remain nameless here in their all-too culpable shame—whose failure to link to even the most incandescent and stupefying of my literary emanations is patently due to mean-spirited, uncomprehending envy. Face it, you sad pretenders, only the Great are called to Glory in the Pantheon of Genius, and your ticket stub expired years ago.)

Because lack of quality or intelligibility are so clearly not even worth considering as possible reasons for respectable, upstanding sites not to link to my posts, I can only conclude that the fault, Dear Readers, lies not in my stars but in my language.

And by "language" I do not mean to refer to that old canard that my diction and writing style is somehow excessively stilted, ornate, or pitched above the heads of all but the most erudite, perceptive, or anal-retentive of readers. After all, even the poster boy for plainspoken English prose, Ernest Hemingway, was not averse to using the occasional "ten cent" word and run-on paragraph when it suited him. (Usually in the context of sex, natch.)

No, by "language" I mean those naughty bits which get caught in the teeth of censors, FCC bureaucrats, and Episcopalian ministers everywhere; namely, cuss words.

Now, I have alluded before to the "functional Tourette's syndrome" which can afflict the ranks of junior investment bankers.1 It occurs to me that I may not have made clear to those non-investment bankers in my audience (thank God for all three of you) that this coping mechanism is not limited to the clueless and jejune underclass of Analysts and Associates. Rather, it extends all the way to the top of the company pyramid as a permanent feature of social discourse within the four walls of an investment bank. No matter how high you rise on the org chart, you simply cannot maintain your authority, gravitas, or blood pressure without unleashing the occasional torrent of toe-curling language so foul and despicable that Lenny Bruce himself would cut his hair and join a convent if he heard it.

Having burned a few blue streaks into the wall-to-wall carpet of a few investment banks myself, I can testify to the fact that one usually feels appreciably better after having unloaded on some unsuspecting Analyst, computer screen, or (absent) client with such a tirade. Furthermore, as long as one is not on the receiving end of such a bombardment, one usually finds the performance quite amusing. There really is nothing quite so rib-tickling as overhearing a colleague deliver a ten-minute monologue on the inadequate parentage, physical endowment, and sexual morals of another person or object without having to use more than 15% of his words from the stock of those acceptable to the evening news.2 There is a certain grandeur to filthy language, especially when it is delivered with conviction, and abandon.

But apparently many, many websites in this country cling to the patently false delusion that they are somehow "PG-13" sites oriented toward the putatively sensitive and tender-hearted "Man on the Street." Really, guys, what are you smoking? Sure, it is demonstrably true that 28.6% of the combined readership of the Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal and the New York Times' DealBook has an emotional age of 14, but I guarantee you that 98.6% of those individuals are of legal drinking age and possess at least 13 back issues of Juggs magazine. It is heroic to assume that anyone outside the investment banking, private equity, and hedge fund industries even gives a shit about what happens on Wall Street or in the world of finance. Certainly, the emanations and soundbites we hear daily out of Washington, D.C. and the non-financial media give us no reason to believe that anyone is paying attention to the facts.

However, I can take comfort that not all of my off-color diatribes fall upon entirely stony ground. There does seem to be some appreciation of my finely honed and fiercely delivered excoriations among my cultural and linguistic forbears across the pond. Personally, I have always held a soft spot in my heart for a race which can coin (and unselfconsciously deliver) a phonetic and descriptive gem like "wanker." I mean, crikey, even their bloody parrots say it.

However, I would not be honest if I did not share a certain queasiness I felt when I discovered recently that my rant about JPMorgan's takeover of Bear Stearns was the most popular post this site has ever published, by an factor of two or more, and that virtually all the offending traffic came from Old Blighty, erstwhile Queen of the Waves. Given that the piece was riddled throughout with references to defecation, buggery, and forced penetration of all kinds, I begin to worry that my English friends have not quite—to paraphrase an old joke—left their old public school chums behind.


1 Careful readers will note that I was much more liberal in my use of obfuscating asterisks when I referred to unapproved vocabulary in such early posts. I have become bolder—and, I must admit, lazier—in my old age. Those of you who do not approve of this development can go f**k fuck yourselves.
2 I am no cunning linguist, but I tend to believe that it is often the proportion of naughty to clean bits in a particular utterance, rather than its absolute length, which determines its snicker-worthiness. I can think of no better example in this regard than my favorite utterance from that underrated cuss-fest, The Commitments:

"Fook you, ya faht fooker!"

Of course, alliteration helps.

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