Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gone With the Wind

My patience reached a breaking point with yesterday’s news that “headwinds” have helped 4th-quarter profits at Yahoo! (YHOO) drop by 23%.

I've been tracking the Headwinds Cliché Index for the past few months, after tripping over the H word again and again on my regular strolls through Proxyland. A search for “headwinds” in SEC filings this month yielded 161 hits, nearly triple the number of times it appeared in January of 2007.

Not being a CEO, I don't know whether "headwinds" refers to boating or to flying and frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn which one it is. Whatever its origin, this overblown metaphor seems to serve as an all-purpose excuse for pretty much anything that’s going wrong anywhere, financially speaking. The filings speak of “macroeconomic headwinds,” “credit headwinds,” “market headwinds,” and even “delinquency headwinds.” Fund managers seem especially fond of the word, often bragging about how they've "prevailed" in the face of these fierce countercurrents.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with a company using this word to capture the state of economic pushback that looks to be the real state of our union right now. I am saying, however, that I’m sick to death of it. Come on, people, there are 10,000 writers on strike - grab a few, buy them some beers and see if they can't come up with something better. Failing that, crack open a thesaurus and get your maelstrom on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WSJ must have been reading this post...There is an article in today's paper on the use of the term "headwinds"