I want to use the terms in bold, to illustrate how these aquatic expressions can be used to a student of mine who is a trader. Obviously, I've exaggerated and greatly simplified the theme but I would like to ask your opinions as to whether the terms have been used correctly. And if there are other liquid metaphors, equally appropriate in the field of finance, which I may have left out.

Liquid assets can be turned into cash which you can channel into a business; if that venture is particularly successful, investors will pour funds in, and, if the cash continues to flow, you'll find yourself riding on the crest of a wave and swimming in money. But there are certain drawbacks. Primarily, an overflow of cash can lead to CEOs being careless and overly greedy. Foolish investments and extravagant spending could drain resources, and create a significant gulf. Consequently, the company might have to liquidate their creditors, and if the economy hits a rocky period, the source of their revenue could run, literally, dry overnight. In the most dramatic cases, (the dot-com bubble) companies will sink without trace

In reality; however, the vast majority of businesses will experience the ebb and flow or typical fluctuations that exist in a company's economic cycle. Some companies will decide to merge, and the new company will be able to draw on a huge pool of resources. The most successful businesses will have no shortage of floating assets, and will wisely plough back their profits.

I realize this question might be closed for being off topic; perhaps POB (primarily opinion based) and proofreading; but I'm willing to take the risk, and besides I really do need to know if I have used these terms correctly.

Financial English is a new territory for me, I need help!

  • 2
    Don't forget what happens when your liquid assets are frozen! Nor that liquidity itself has depth (you can say deep liquidity, but not shallow liquidity, for some reason; though you can say thin).
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:03
  • 1
    Oh boy, and now I remembered about solvency. I may have to bite the bullet and post an answer. But if I wait long enough, maybe Josh61 will do it for me :)
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:12
  • 1
    @DanBron laundering!! :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:16
  • 2
    Money is a liquid: onestopenglish.com/grammar/pdf-content/vocabulary-metaphors/…
    – user66974
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:43
  • 1
    @oerkelens, literally literally means figuratively now :(
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 19, 2014 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


Don't forget that trading doesn't come with a guarantee of bouyant business and swelling profits, and so many companies founder within their first years, and are dissolved. Their fate relies on getting enough draft payments to offset their costs, shore up their annual expenditure and copper-fasten their business.

These terms are more maritime than fluid or aquatic, but it extends the metaphor somewhat.

  • 1
    +1 especially for draft and dissolved. And for teaching me a new word copper-fasten.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 21, 2014 at 14:44

The financial jargon abounds in metaphors, and water metaphors are just a part of the whole set. Water metaphors, as such, are not right or wrong but rather they are more or less frequently used depending on a number of factors. Some of those used in your extract are common, others are less, but they are all acceptable and easily understandable. New idiomatic expressions are quickly absorbed by the financial world. You remember the movie Armageddon? After the movie was released, for a period of time the term 'Armageddon' became very popular, and was eagerly used obviously referring to a possible financial catastrophe. Among the metaphors used for money I think the following ones are the most interesting:

Money as water:

  • though this is about flows, sources and sinks, it is subtly different from the commodity/supply chain metaphor, since it has natural origins. Think in terms of dams, rainwater, artesian wells, money “frozen up” in old families as glaciers/polar ice caps, and so on. This is probably the best way to think about money culturally and socially. Paris Hilton lives on a glacier

Money as commodity:

  • at a certain level, money becomes just another commodity like iron rods or size #9 bolts. It flows through your systems like a river, in large quantities, can be kept as inventory, depreciates, clogs up supply chains, and depending on the vagaries of the markets and interest rates, it may make sense to hold more or less of it.

Money as blood:

  • this is where all those haemmorage and tourniquet metaphors come from. Money as circulating stuff that, if pumping pressure gets low enough, causes structural collapses and death. Though most of us resent the idea of the government bailing out fat cats, pure Darwinist “let ‘em pay the costs” opinions miss the fact that the world is not only like an ecosystem of many organisms, but also like a single connected living thing. You can cause a lot of pain or kill the whole thing if you are not careful. This is also the sort of metaphor switch that made Bill Gates switch from wealth creation to AIDS fighting.

  • Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy gives money markets a heart attack.

Surfing the money tides: Understanding the foreign exchange market through metaphors.

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