business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

The Wolf of Wall Street Guide to Financial Business English

“The Wolf of Wall Street” uses the “f-word” a record-breaking 506 times in 180 minutes.

I did the math — that’s almost three times per minute.

So, naturally, it is the perfect movie to learn Business English.

After all, between the profanities there is some great Business English in the movie too.

Profanities, swear words, curse words, bad words – whatever you call them, they are probably not appropriate for business situations.

Despite this, the main characters in “the Wolf of Wall Street” work in the financial sector.

The main characters are essentially salesmen, selling stocks to the public.

This means you can improve your finance and marketing English at the same time!

Before we get started, check off these ten great tips on learning English while watching movies.

One tip: use subtitles!
 


 
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Business English From The Wolf of Wall Street?! Finance 101

Six Important Finance Terms You’ve Got to Know

First, let’s start with some basic finance terms used in the movie.

1. Stocks / Shares

business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

A stock, or share, is a financial product. When you buy a company’s stock, you are buying ownership in that company. When the company’s value rises, you are entitled to a portion of that success (as an owner).

The risky side of stocks is that their value always changes.

Basically, you want to purchase a stock when the value is low and sell it when the value is high.

This difference between the price you purchase it for and the price you sell it for is your profit (or loss).

2. Quotes

business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

Quotes” is short for “stock quotes.” This is the price of a stock as quoted on a stock exchange.

Quotes usually include more than just the selling price. They also include the buying price and volume traded (number of shares bought and sold).

There are many apps, such as Bloomberg, where you can access the latest stock quotes and compare them to their high and low prices in the last year or more.

3. Trade

Buy and pay

When you trade, you buy or sell a good or service.

You probably trade every day.

Think about it – did you buy coffee this morning? Then you gave money and received a good (coffee) – you traded!

Did you go to work last Tuesday? You gave a service (time and labor) and received money – you traded!

We typically use “trade” to describe all transactions (buying or selling) related to stocks. However, it’s fine to say, “did you buy that stock yesterday?

4. Blue Chip

business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

A few times in the movie, Jordan, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, talks about blue chip stocks and blue chip…ladies.

Blue chip” is an idiom, or phrase, meaning “highest value.” This comes from the blue chip in poker, which has the highest value of any other colored chip.

Blue chip stocks are generally well-established, financially secure companies. They are most likely to be stable, meaning that although they may not grow quickly, they probably won’t lose dramatically as well.

Similarly, when Leo calls his ladies “blue chip,” he is implying they are the best of the best.

5. Stock Exchange

business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

A stock exchange is a marketplace (think: shopping mall) for stocks and other financial products. Stock exchanges can be physical or electronic locations. Each stock exchange has their own set of requirements for companies to list their stocks. Multi-national corporations can be listed on multiple stock exchanges but must meet the requirements of each one to do so.

Some popular stock exchanges are the New York Stock Exchange and Dow Jones Industrial in the US, Hang Seng in Hong Kong, Nikkei 225 in Japan and FTSE in the UK.

6. Bullpen

business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

Bullpen is the physical room and shared office space of junior employees in the financial field. Senior employees have their own offices while junior employees work in the bullpen.

Learn Finance Terms and Business Slang from Wolf of Wall Street Quotes

 “We sell off the pink sheets – penny stocks.”

Jordan has lost his job and goes to interview at a small trading company. This scene is memorable because it introduces the “penny stocks” that he’ll later use to build his company and his reputation as a thief and crook.

The scene is also unforgettable because the interviewer promises Jordan an obscene sexual act if he succeeds.

What are pink sheets?

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Companies need certain requirements to trade their stocks on a stock exchange. For those that do NOT meet the requirements, they can sell stocks over-the-counter.

Over-the-counter” means that there is no stock exchange, no physical meeting place – the deal to sell or purchase stock happens over the phone.

The stock quotes were literally printed on pink paper, hence the name pink sheets.

Companies that trade on pink sheets are generally small or new (though this is not always true). Information about these companies is usually difficult to find. This makes investing in “pink sheets” very high-risk (but also with a potential for high return).

 “See, an IPO is an initial public offering; the first time a stock is offered for sale to the general population.”

Donnie, played by Jonah Hill, has introduced us to his friend who designs women’s shoes, Steve Madden. Jordan and Donnie are helping Madden with his IPO when Jordan explains to movie-watchers what an IPO really is.

business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

In finance, you will often hear the term “IPO.” As stated, this is the first time a company lists stocks for purchase by the public. This is an opportunity for the company to raise funds and for the public to invest in companies they believe will increase in value.

“We do our own IPOs and we will print money.”

Jordan uses the phrase “print money” to explain that his people (and company) are going to make a LOT of money by doing this.

business english from the wolf of wall street! finance 101

This refers to the ability to print money (also illegal, unless you are a certified government entity). In theory, if you can print your own money, you can print millions of dollars without having to earn any of it.

In the movie, Jordan is not literally printing money – but he’s making so much money, with so little of his own investment, that it seems like he is simply printing new money.

 “The company blew up and we were now taking it public.”

I always remember this scene. As they are preparing for the IPO, Donnie notices a distracted employee. Before firing him, Donnie swallows a live goldfish! After this small issue, the company continues with preparing for the Madden IPO.

Now, let’s move on to the vocabulary.

Blew up.” The company did not actually explode. This means that the company got very popular, very quickly. Companies like Instagram or LINE blew up in the last few years.

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Taking it public” refers to an IPO. Now that the company blew up, it will offer stocks to the general public.

 “It was the biggest deal we’d ever done and the hottest IPO on Wall Street.”

Jordan is getting his team ready for the IPO and presents a hilarious speech, including throwing his $40,000 gold watch into the crowd to motivate employees to work hard.

Hottest IPO” means it is the most popular IPO at the time. Investors (people who want to purchase stocks) are excited about this IPO.

Wall Street.” Wall Street is where the New York Stock Exchange was born. It has come to represent the entire financial and investment community. This term can also be used negatively to refer to big businesses, especially big banks. It is sometimes used with the term “Main Street” which refers to smaller, local businesses.

business-english-from-the-wolf-of-wall-street-finance

 “Aerotyne International is a cutting edge tech firm out of the Midwest, awaiting imminent patent approval on a new generation of radar equipment.”

We have talked a lot about finance terms so far. However, Jordan, Donnie and many of the main characters are actually salesmen. Here is a great sentence to learn sales and marketing terms.

Okay, let’s split this sentence up into sections.

Cutting-edge

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Cutting-edge” is an idiom, or phrase, meaning the latest and greatest. The term “cutting-edge” comes from a knife’s blade. The only way to move forward is with the cutting-edge side of the blade.

When speaking about a company or product, “cutting-edge” suggests a bright future. Companies are usually cutting-edge due to advances in technology, branding, etc.

Tech firm

business-english-from-the-wolf-of-wall-street-finance

Tech” is short for technology. Firm is another word for business or company. Tech firm is simply short for a company in the technology industry.

Patent approval

Patents exist all over the world. When you receive a patent, you are protected by the government and receive exclusive (private, one and only) rights to a product, method or technology. This stops your competitors from taking your ideas or technologies.

business-english-from-the-wolf-of-wall-street-finance

You must apply for a patent. You will often see products with that state “patent-pending.” This means they have applied but have not yet been approved.

Awaiting imminent patent approval

Imminent means that it is about to happen. Since it only implies (indirectly suggests) that there is a guarantee something will happen, it may not necessarily be true.

Awaiting imminent patent approval” means that patent approval is almost guaranteed and will be coming soon. This is a measure of success and builds trust with whomever you are speaking.

New generation of radar equipment

New generation” reinforces “cutting-edge.” It is new or improved and suggests that this may be the future.

business-english-from-the-wolf-of-wall-street-finance

Overall, this is a great sentence to learn marketing skills. Almost every word is chosen to build trust with the listener and to promote this company.

“Aerotyne International is a cutting edge tech firm out of the Midwest, awaiting imminent patent approval on a new generation of radar equipment.”

This sentence could be rewritten to say:

The latest and greatest company in the technology industry has a new product. Also, in the near future they *most likely* will be guaranteed exclusive rights to make or distribute that new product.

“I was indicted for money laundering, securities fraud and an endless list of other s***.”

I have to include a quote about securities fraud. Jordan’s life looked amazing – money, fun, power, etc. – but it all ended with an FBI investigation, millions of dollars in fines and years in jail.

Indicted

Courtroom Trial

You can also say “charged,” as in “charged with a crime.”

Indicted simply means that you have been charged with a crime – it does not mean you have been found guilty.

Money laundering

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There are many different types of money laundering, but essentially people money launder to hide the source of their money. When you make money illegally, your cash is “dirty.” You want your cash to appear “clean” so you money launder it. Jordan got rich illegally, so he laundered money to make it appear that he earned the money legally.

Several scenes in the movie show Jordan money laundering, including having “rat holes” — ways to smuggle (secretly move) money into foreign bank accounts.

To hide the source of his cash, Jordan used his friends as rat holes who owned stock and paid him the profits directly. This way, there was no electronic trace that Jordan himself owned the stock.

Also, of course, who could forget the scene where they tape millions of dollars to a woman’s body?

This was done with the intention (purpose) of moving his “dirty money” into a hidden bank account overseas.

Securities fraud

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Shares are a type of financial security (instrument or tool). When you purchase shares, you have a right to receive information about the company.

Jordan knows these shares are likely to lose money but he promotes and sells them anyway. Essentially, Jordan misrepresents these companies. This blocks the buyer’s right to information about the company and is considered securities fraud.

There are other types of securities, and therefore, other types of securities fraud. However, the one described here is the most obvious one Jordan committed in the movie.

There you have it! Basic finance terms, slang and even some marketing terminology – all from watching a fast-paced and profanity-filled movie. This should help you in your finance position or interview, or just over a coffee with some of your coworkers!


Joyce Fang grew up all over the United States and currently lives in Yokohama, Japan working as a freelance business plan writer and graphic designer. She has earned a Japan-focused MBA and has worked across almost every industry including finance, hospitality, retail and event management. She loves traveling, food, rugby, hot yoga and her dog, Gator.

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