Bitcoin has been on a rollercoaster in the last few days. On Jan. 5 it came within a hair’s breadth of surpassing its all-time high; then it lost billions in market value on fears of a Chinese government clampdown.
The traders responsible for these price swings are spread around the world. They gather on Reddit’s r/bitcoin, the legendary forum Bitcointalk, encrypted Telegram chat rooms, and Teamspeak servers (basically a rolling, public conference call, where traders can speak to each other using technology originally designed for multi-player games) such as WhalePool.
But try to join in their conversations, and you’ll likely be baffled. Why do traders persistently misspell “hold” even in the face of powerful autocorrect software? Is being a “bagholder” a pejorative? And why is the BearWhale spoken of in hushed tones? Even insiders marvel at the slang bitcoin culture has spawned.
Ever committed to exploring the new global economy, Quartz has demystified the jargon of the bitcoin trading floor for you. 📈️
Hodl — To stay invested in bitcoin and not to capitulate in the face of plunging prices. It was established by a cri de cœur issued during the great bitcoin crash of 2013: “I AM HODLING” a post on Bitcointalk screamed.
The post’s author, “GameKyuubi,” acknowledged that he had mis-spelled “Hold”, then went into analyzing why he was holding bitcoin even as prices collapsed. His conclusion was he simply couldn’t sell: In a bear market, the only people who sell are savvy day-traders who get the timing just right, and “illusioned noobs” (unseasoned newcomers) who panic. For everyone else, there is only hodling.
Bear — From Wall Street lingo: a trader who believes prices will fall.
Whale — From casino parlance: a trader with a fat account, usually one who is bullish on the price of bitcoin.
BearWhale — By extension, a big-time trader who is bearish on the price of bitcoin.
A BearWhale is a dangerous creature because he/she/it tries to sell large quantities of bitcoin on the open market, lowering the price for everyone else. The only known sighting of one in the wild occurred on October 2014 on the Slovenian Bitstamp exchange. The BearWhale was trying to unload 30,000 bitcoins in a single order—at the time worth over $9 million, and today $26 million—for $300 apiece, well under the mid-$300 range that bitcoin was trading for at the time.
The result was a sudden but temporary flattening of the bitcoin price. It was temporary because hodlers and whales assembled to soak up the BearWhale’s coins, successfully slaying it. This event was commemorated with artwork of the battle, such as the picture atop this post.
Bagholder — An investor who has been hodling for too long, and is left to face the consequences. Also refers to the many pump-and-dump schemes involving thinly traded “altcoins” (cryptocurrencies that aren’t bitcoin, which function more like penny stocks) on the scene. A versatile term that can also be used to refer to holders of state-issued “fiat” currency.
#Rekt — Borrowed from online gaming slang, to mean utterly destroyed or ruined. One trader on r/bitcoin put out this this elegiac call after one of bitcoin’s many crashes: “MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR ALL OF THOSE #REKT ON MARGIN CALLS”
Choyna — A distortion of “China,” a country that is hugely influential to bitcoin because it’s where the most trading and mining activity occurs. (Bitcoins are “mined” by powerful computers running labor-intensive algorithms.)
To the moon! — A rallying cry for bitcoin’s price to rise sky-high. It has sparked existential questions—”Can we please define ‘moon’?“—and attempts to literally translate the phrase by making cryptocurrencies function in space colonies.