Give the Black Swan a Rest for 2009; The Search for a New Metaphor

Give it a rest, Swan

Give it a rest, Swan

OK, so the craziest, most improbable fill-in-the-blank-events in 30/ 50/ 70/ 300 years took place in 2008.  One incredibly unexpected occurrence after another.  Major Bank Blowups, Huge Brokerage Failures, Systemic Collapse etc.

And so everyone ran out and bought a (very good) book called “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, basically a warning/ metaphor for us being never truly prepared for the major, large-impact, unexpected event.  The title comes from the fact that no one in the world knew of the existence of a swan that wasn’t white until Australia was discovered in the 17th century and black swans were seen for the first time.

The book came out in the spring of 2007, about 3 or 4 months before the first signs that something hugely destructive could be on the way.  Many of us on The Street believe that the admission out of Bear Stearns that two of their mortgage funds were imploding was the first evidence of the problem (we can use another bird metaphor and call this news the “Canary in the Coal Mine”).  As the subprime cracks grew and spread, we knew we were in for something (almost) unpredictable and highly unique.  That’s when this “black swan” onslaught began.

With the fresh start we’ve been given, if only by the calendar, I’m here to say that enough is enough – let’s put the over-referenced, tired black swan trope into retirement.  Just in case we get another year of absurdity and hyperbolic surprise, I’ve come up with a few equally improbable animal variations that could take it’s place for 2009:

The Handsome Warthog

The Discerning Billy-Goat

The Diurnal Owl (do enough people know that diurnal is the opposite of nocturnal?)

The Lively Sloth

The Monochromatic Chameleon (too many syllables)

The Prudish Toad

The Kentucky Steamed Chicken

The Forgetful Elephant

You get the drift, but I think we’re all hoping to get a break from the black swan…at least for a little while.

Purchase The Black Swan Book…

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

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