The Abandoned Language of the Trading Floor

The world of trading have moved to the digital realm. The physical floors of the stock markets are abandoned. Like the trading floor at the Kansas City Board of Trade. Abandoned only to be digitally flooded with water making for the submerged trading floor sequences of Archipelago (No one is an island). As the trading floors are rendered obsolete, so is the classic character of the stockbroker screaming out orders into the chaotic crowd. With this character disappear a complete language as well. The sign language used by the stockbrokers on the trading floor to circumvent the deafening noise, becomes a thing of the past. But examining this sign language, shared only between the few initiated, as one would examine the loss of a dialect, or the loss of a culture, reveals certain hidden traits. This language, that most often has been depicted as something sober and conditional to the upholding of our society, is ridden with juvenile, xenophobic and sexist connotations, only mirroring the shit talk that saturates the internet trading forums substituting for the live space of the trading floor. In ‘Trading Pit Hand Signals - A Photographic Reference’ (2013) Ryan Carlson sets out to archive this lost language and in doing so puts on record the adolescent ‘bro’ culture that we regulate our politics and societal structures to accommodate.

Brokerage: Goldman Sachs
Technique: Hand is held palm outward and thumb is folded to touch ring finger.
Origin: Wedding ring.

Brokerage: Fuji
Technique: Index finger and thumb are held to eye and mimic pressing shutter on camera.
Origin: Fuji was also name of camera maker.

Brokerage: Merrill Lynch v.1
Technique: Hand is held to forehead with index and pinky fingers pointed upward.
Origin: Horns of Merrill Lynch's bull logo.

Brokerage: Deutsche Bank
Technique: Index finger is extended and held beneath nose.
Origin: Hitler's moustache.

Brokerage: Paine Webber
Technique: Hand slaps back of neck
Origin: Pain in the neck

Brokerage: Timber Hill
Technique: With fingers extended, arms form ‘L’. Vertical arm is dropped to touch horizontal arm.
Origin: Timber falling.

Brokerage: REFCO + Saul Stone
Technique: Thumb and index finger are pressed together and held to mouth.
Origin: Smoking a joint.

Brokerage: Tullett & Tokyo v.1
Technique: Thumb and index finger are extended to mimic gun held to side of head.
Origin: Tullett sounds like ‘tuer’, which translates as ‘to kill’.

Brokerage: Conti (Continental Illinois)
Technique: Thumb and index finger of both hands are brought together.
Origin: Creates the shape of a vagina. Conti sounds similar to ‘cunt’.

Brokerage: Gelderman
Technique: Thumb and index finger are rubbed together.
Origin: ‘Geld’ is Dutch or German for ‘money’.

Brokerage: Bankers Trust on Sydney Futures Exchange
Technique: Both hands are cupped against chest.
Origin: Firm was abbreviated BT, which traders called ‘big tits’.

Brokerage: Tullett & Tokyo v.2
Technique: Fist is moved downward.
Origin: Tullett sounds like ‘toilet’.

Brokerage: Shatkin
Technique: One hand is held stationary while other hand is pumped up and down.
Origin: Shatkin sounds like ‘shotgun’.

Brokerage: Pillsbury
Technique: Hand mimics placing pill in mouth.
Origin: Eating pill.

Brokerage: Goldberg
Technique: Index finger or thumb is pressed to nose.
Origin: Stereotype of Jewish nose.

Brokerage: Kyte
Technique: Both hands mimic holding kite string.
Origin: Flying a kite.

Brokerage: Daiwa
Technique: Both hands are joined to form triangle above head.
Origin: Traditional hat worn by Asian agricultural workers.

Brokerage: Société Générale
Technique: Hand held to forehead with fingers extended.
Origin: Saluting a general.

Brokerage: Goodbody
Technique: Hands are moved to outline woman's figure.
Origin: Womanly curves.

Brokerage: Wardley James Capel
Technique: Thumb, index and middle fingers are extended.
Origin: Firm's clearing number was 007, so it's the James Bond pose as the fingers are supposed to mimic a gun.

Brokerage: Natwest
Technique: Index finger is pointed outward and thumb is moved up and down.
Origin: Wild West pistol.

Brokerage: Chemical Bank
Technique: One hand mimics injecting syringe into other arm.
Origin: Injecting heroin.

Brokerage: TSB Bank
Technique: Thumb is pointed downward from fist.
Origin: Opposite of firm slogan ‘The bank that likes to say yes’.

Brokerage: Bank of America
Technique: Hand is held over heart.
Origin: Americans place hand over heart during national anthem.

Brokerage: Merrill Lynch v.2
Technique: Hand grips necktie and pulls upward.
Origin: Lynching, playing off ‘lynch’ in Merrill Lynch.

Brokerage: TNT
Technique: Thumb is pointed upward then curled downward to index finger.
Origin: Detonating explosives.

Brokerage: IBJ + Hoare Govett
Technique: Tongue is pressed against cheek while hand is raised to mouth.
Origin IBJ: ‘BJ’ portion of firm name. Origin Hoare Govett: Hoare sounds like ‘whore’.

Brokerage: Kidder Peabody
Technique: Elbow is held horizontally and moved side-to-side.
Origin: Nudging elbow indicates ‘kidding’.

Brokerage: Dean Witter
Technique: Hand is placed near cheek with thumb and index finger extended.
Origin: Dean Witter marketing slogan, ‘Talk to Dean Witter’.

Brokerage: Earl Combs & Co.
Technique: Fingers are held to forehead and mimic brushing hair.
Origin: Comb.

Brokerage: Bear Stearns
Technique: Arms are crossed in self­-embrace.
Origin: Bear hug.

Brokerage: Bache
Technique: Fist is held to cheek.
Origin: Bache sounds like ‘bash’.

Brokerage: Babcock & Brown
Technique: Fingers are formed into ‘O’ and moved back and forth at belt level.
Origin: Play on ‘cock’ in firm name.

Brokerage: Yamaichi
Technique: One hand scratches opposite forearm.
Origin: Yamaichi sounds like ‘itchy’.

Brokerage: Rosenthal & Co.
Technique: Hand pulls trading jacket lapel to nose.
Origin: Smelling a rose on jacket lapel.

Brokerage: Barclays BZW
Technique: Index and middle fingers pinch nose.
Origin: BZW sounds like ‘P.U.’ that indicates a foul smell.