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Investment Pornography

Every once in a while a new word or phrase is coined that becomes accepted in the financial vernacular. With the rapid evolution of internet investing, on-line financial journalism, and stock bulletin boards, Investor Home believes the time is ripe to officially recognize and offer a loose definition for the term “Investment Pornography” (or “Financial Pornography”).

Two respected investment professionals are credited with coining the phrase, although it’s not perfectly clear which began using the term first. It is clear however, that both Rex Sinquefield of Dimensional Fund Advisors and columnist Jane Bryant Quinn have been using the terms for many years. And recently half a dozen or more journalists and professionals have also started using the terms regularly. The phrase is even listed at the Word Spy Web site which highlights recently-coined and interesting words and phrases. Paul Merriman also does entire seminars on the topic of “How to Protect Yourself from Investment Pornography.”

So what is investment pornography? There is no precise definition and some people disagree on what exactly qualifies as investment pornography, but let’s start with one of Webster’s definitions of “pornography.”

Pornography: The depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.

Jane Bryant Quinn has offered a number of explanations for the term in various articles (see also Newsweek, “The Big Tease” 8/7/95).

You know the stories: The Top Ten Mutual Funds to Buy Now, How to Double Your Money This Year, personality profiles that read like fan magazines. Stock-touting pieces that praise any path to profits. We’ve all done these stories, in one form or another. It’s investment pornography — soft core, not hard core, but pornography all the same.

When Business Writing Becomes Soft Porn from Columbia Journalism Review (March/April 1998)

When asked about the term in an August 1998 interview with titled Good Investing Isn’t Sexy, Quinn responded with the following.

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