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Color Me Lumpy

3:15 PM -- As earnings season hits full stride, maybe it's time to revisit the concept of conference call lingo, which can just drive you mad.

First off, a note to analysts: What's with the, "Great quarter, guys!" I thought for sure this vestige of the bubble days would wither under the post-bubble Wall Street attack. No dice -- we appear to be stuck with it.

Other than the question of why you would say, "Great quarter, guys!" when clearly the quarter very well may have sucked, I ask: Why say it at all? It's downright annoying, suspicious, and utterly superfluous. Are you going to get a pay raise for flattering the people you're supposed to be grilling with incisive, calculating, analytical insight? Imagine if I started every article I wrote with, "Great quarter, guys!"

Analysts are supposed to analyze. They're not called complimentysts.

Here's my list of the Top Ten Conference Call Cliches and Euphemisms (with translations, where applicable):

  • "Great quarter, guys!"
  • "Could we get some more color on that?"
  • "We'll continue to optimize our business model." (Translation: "We've got to find more folks to sack.")
  • "We're seeing margin pressure." ("Damn, our competitors are selling stuff cheap!")
  • "We expect earnings to be somewhat back-end loaded." ("We are busting our humps stuffing channels at the last minute.")
  • "We expect there will continue to be some lumpiness." ("We actually don't have a friggin' clue what happens from day to day.")
  • "The industry continues to go through some rationalization." ("We expect more people to go to jail or file for bankruptcy.")
  • "At the end of the day..." (they hope to still have a job)
  • "It's a developing market segment." (they haven't sold squat yet)
  • "Great quarter guys!"
On the Juniper earnings call last night, the usual discussion of lumpiness went on dangerously long, followed by some consideration of "color." My biggest fear was that an analyst would ask: "Could you give us some color on that lumpiness?"

Actually, I'm quite certain that one has already been asked.

Great quarter, guys!

— R. Scott Raynovich, US Editor, Light Reading

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