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What We Mean When We Say “Bids Wanted in Competition.”

THE PHRASE: "Bids Wanted in Competition"

EXAMPLE: “Jessica wasn’t particularly impressed by the crowd, but she figured she might as well smile, flip her hair, and put herself on a BWIC for the night.”

WHO USES IT? That guy from college you were stunned to learn now pulls down seven figures / 22-year-old Murray Hill residents / married bankers meddling in the love lives of their younger colleagues.

Jeff T. Jarvis

A young lady in the structured products department of Citigroup, seeking to recover from a terrible breakup, might announce to colleagues over Bloomberg chat that she was putting herself on a BWIC. At work, that’d mean seeing what the going price is for a security she wants to sell, but in this context, a BWIC (short for “bids wanted in competition”) means she wants to see what kind of market for potential suitors there might be. Her friend, offering to set her up with a guy, will “give her color,” filling her in on all his best assets (good job, good hair).

At the bar, she might decide to go for the “highest bidder”—the hottest guy she can get—or she might make a riskier long-term bet with higher potential payoff. If she’s lucky, she might happen upon the rare grown New York man who qualifies as a “discounted bond,” undervalued by the market, perhaps because he dresses poorly or hasn’t yet hit his bonus stride. If she’s interested, she’ll say she has a bid for him. And if all goes well, after three dates or too much wine, she will inform her friend that, yes, they finally “traded,” and it was not bad.

The habit of appropriating the language of work for the bedroom is an old one. The word “intercourse” itself came out of the business world, as did “partner” and “affair.” In fact, “the business” has been a euphemism for sex since the seventeenth century, points out Ben Zimmer, Boston Globe language columnist. But more recently (with some exceptions, like “he’s a closer”), we have favored slang that hints at a more leisure-driven kind of conquest—“rounding the bases,” for instance, or “rocking someone’s world.” “That may say something about society’s shifting views toward sex, which now tends to get euphemized by appropriating the language of more pleasurable pursuits,” explains Zimmer. 

Still, on Wall Street, nothing gets people more worked up than a deal.