show-me stock
n. A stock that has fallen in price because of the company's recent poor results, and that won't recover until the company shows a string of profits or other positive news.

Example Citation:
"Chief executive Michael MacMillan acknowledged it will take several quarters of ever-improving results to boost the company's sagging share price.

'The market is disappointed with the financial results for the first eight or nine months after the merger,' he said beneath a giant movie screen at the company's new Beach Cinemas complex on Queen St. E.

'We're a show-me stock right now and we have to deliver.'"
—Rob Ferguson, "Alliance Atlantis Reassure Holders," The Toronto Star, September 2, 1999

Today's phrase is a play on the unofficial state motto of Missouri: "The Show-Me State." It's no "Live Free or Die" (the state motto of New Hampshire), but it has been the cause of many a scratched head and furrowed brow over the years. Its source is a speech given in 1899 by Missouri Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver:

"I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."


I was surprised that only one person -- subscriber Bryan Fields -- wrote to comment on the inexplicable misuse of the word "nonplussed" in yesterday's citation:

"Yet he was nonplussed by the number of attacks on that single day last week. 'I think it's fairly typical,' he said."

The writer — veteran journalist Gina Kolata of The New York Times — is using nonplussed as a synonym for "unfazed," when it really means the opposite: "bewildered and at a loss as to what to think." This is a common error and, as I said to Bryan, I think the reason it happens is that the non- ("not") prefix makes it sound as though nothing happened ("the guy didn't get plussed"). It doesn't help that the -plussed part comes from the Latin root plus, which means "more." So the Latin phrase non plus means, "no more." The way I remember it is to think of some poor, bewildered soul throwing up his hands and saying "No more! No more!"

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