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15 Fast-Talking Auctioneering Terms

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You might have heard that Han Solo’s leather jacket sold at auction for $191,000, while J.K. Rowling’s writing chair went for a whopping $394,000. But you might not know what exactly goes on at the likes of Sotheby's and Christie's, what with all the paddle waving and the torrential verbiage that pours from auctioneers’ mouths. Before you try your hand at some bidding, check out these 15 fast-talking auctioneering terms.

1. AUCTION CHANT

American auctioneers are perhaps best identified by their rapid-fire speech, known as the auction chant, as well as bid calling, crying bid, and cattle rattle, specifically for livestock auctions. According to Texas Monthly, the chant comes in three parts: the statement (“I’m bid ten dollars”), the suggestion (“Ten dollars, twenty dollars”), and the question (“Do I hear 30?”).

So why do auctioneers talk like this? To “hypnotize the bidders,” according to Slate, and to lull them into a “conditioned pattern of call and response.” As for the speed, that's to convey urgency.

2. FILLER WORDS

Filler words are basically all the words besides the bid. They differ by auctioneer and give their chants their unique rhythm and roll. They also give potential buyers a few seconds to think about their next bid and to remind them of what the last bid was.

3. BID CATCHER

The auctioneer isn’t the only one working the house. The bid catcher, also known as the ringman, takes note of every bid and communicates them to the auctioneer either with hand signals or verbally.

4. LOT

A lot refers to an item or group of items that's going up for sale.

5. GO ON THE BLOCK

When an item goes up for auction, it’s said to go on the block. The block refers to the auctioneer’s podium, which in the past was a literal block of wood.

6. THE THREE Ds

The three Ds stand for debt, divorce, and death, often one of the reasons an item or items goes on the block. Linguist Barry Popik says sometimes it’s the five Ds, death, disease, divorce, drugs, and denial.

7. PROVENANCE

If you watch the Antiques Roadshow, you’ll know that the provenance of an object can increase its value. A borrowing from French, provenance refers to the history of ownership of an item, back to when it was first created, if possible.

8. ONE MONEY

One money means a single bid for an entire lot, or several items at once. So $100 for five paintings would get you all five paintings for that hundred smackers.

9. TIMES THE MONEY

On the other hand, times the money basically means “each.” In other words, if an auctioneer says a lot of five paintings is “times the money” and you bid $20, you’re bidding $20 per painting.

10. WHITE GLOVE SALE

An auction is dubbed a white glove sale when every single lot sells. This rare occurrence is so-called because of an old tradition in which the auctioneer was bestowed with a pair of white gloves.

11. CHANDELIER BID

If bidding is feeling lackluster, an auctioneer might employ the chandelier bid—that is, a fake bid in which he or she points at the ceiling or wherever an imaginary bidder might be. Also known as the rafter bid, such a practice is technically not illegal, but it is frowned upon.

12. PETER FUNK

Peter Funk is a historical term for a fraudulent bidder who works to raise prices and cheat buyers. The name comes from a character in an 1834 novel, The Perils of Pearl Street: Including a Taste of the Dangers of Wall Street, by Asa Greene.

13. DUTCH AUCTION

While in traditional auctions the price of an item is raised by bidders, in a Dutch auction, the price of an item or property is gradually lowered until someone finally agrees to buy it.

In the world of IPOs, a Dutch auction works similarly. All potential investors end up paying the same price per share, which is the lowest price that was bid. So if you bid $100 per share, and the lowest bid ends up being $75, you only have to pay $75 per share.

What makes this type of auction Dutch? It’s not clear but we’re guessing the origin is similar to that of idioms like go Dutch, a general sort of derisiveness against the Dutch because of a rivalry between the Dutch and the English in the 17th century.

14. CANDLE AUCTION

An old British tradition, candle auctions allow bidding to go on only as long as a short candle burns. The highest bid at the time of the candle burning out is the one that's taken.

15. HAMMER PRICE

The hammer price is the final, successful bid, officially sealed with a bang of the auctioneer’s gavel or hammer.

Additional sources: Artspace magazine; Investopedia; Sotheby's; Weese Auction Co.: Glossary of Auction Terms.

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9 Things You Should Keep in Mind Around Someone Observing Ramadan
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To mark the ninth (and most holy) month in the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world observe Ramadan. Often compared to Lent in Christianity and Yom Kippur in Judaism, Ramadan is all about restraint. For one month, Muslims observing Ramadan fast during the day and then feast at night.

By abstaining from food and water (as well as sex, smoking, fighting, etc.) during daylight, Muslims strive to practice discipline, instill gratitude for what they have, and draw closer to Allah. To be respectful and not annoy observers, here are nine things you should never say or do to someone observing Ramadan.

1. DON'T JOKE ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

A traditional iftar meal.
A traditional iftar meal.
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Although it might be tempting to joke about Ramadan being a good excuse to lose weight, it is a time for spiritual reflection and is a serious matter. Observers undertake the challenge of fasting for religious and spiritual reasons rather than aesthetic ones. And, once the sun sets each night, many Muslims prepare a hearty iftar (the meal that breaks the fast) of dates, curries, rice dishes, and other delicious foods. The suhoor (the pre-dawn meal) is often fresh fruit, bread, cheese, and dishes that are high in fiber and complex carbohydrates. So the idea of a cleanse is pretty far from their minds.

2. DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS.

An Indian Muslim student recites from the Quran in a classroom during the holy month of Ramadan.
NOAH SEELAM, AFP/Getty Images

There are approximately 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, but not all of them observe Ramadan the same way. Although most observant Muslims fast for Ramadan, don't assume that every Muslim you meet has the same methods, traditions, and attitudes towards fasting. For some, Ramadan is more about prayer, reading the Qur'an, and performing acts of charity than merely about forgoing food and drink. And for those who may be exempted from the daily fasting, such as pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, or those with various health conditions, they might not appreciate the reminder from nosey busy-bodies that they aren't participating in the traditional way.

3. SAY "RAMADAN MUBARAK" INSTEAD OF "HAPPY RAMADAN."

A sign which reads
A sign which reads "Ramadan Kareem" in Arabic is seen pictured in front of the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai.
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Rather than wishing someone a happy Ramadan, being more thoughtful with your choice of words can show that you understand and respect the sanctity of their holy month. Saying "Ramadan Mubarak" or "Ramadan Kareem" are the traditional ways to impart warm wishes—they both convey the generosity and blessings associated with the month. The actual party comes after Ramadan, when Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, an up to three-day festival that involves plenty of food, time with family, and gifts.

4. DON'T BE A FOOD PUSHER.

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Even if the idea of not eating or drinking all day might be unfathomable to you, don't push food onto anyone observing Ramadan. While fasting all day for a month can cause mild fatigue, dehydration, and dizziness, don't try to convince participating Muslims to eat or drink something—they are fully aware of any side effects they may feel throughout the day. Instead, be respectful of their decision to fast and offer to lend a hand with something like chores, errands, or anything unrelated to food.

5. ACCEPT THAT WATER ISN'T ON THE MENU.

Dates and a glass of water.
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Muslims who observe Ramadan don't sip any liquids during daytime. No water, coffee, tea, or juice. Zilch. Going without water is even harder than going without food, so be aware of the struggle and accept it. It's all part of the sacrifice and self-discipline inherent in Ramadan.

6. RESPECT PEOPLE'S PRIVACY.

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Some Muslims choose not to fast during Ramadan for medical or other personal reasons, and they may not appreciate being badgered with questions about why they may be eating or drinking rather than fasting. Children and the elderly generally don't fast all day, and people who are sick are exempt from fasting. Other conditions that preclude fasting during Ramadan are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menstruation (although, if possible, people generally make up the days later).

7. BE MINDFUL OF ENERGY LEVELS.

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Eschewing food and drink for hours at a time can cause lethargy, so be aware that Muslims observing Ramadan may be more tired than usual. Your Muslim friends and coworkers don't stop working for an entire month, but they may tweak their schedules to allow for more rest. They may also stay indoors more (to prevent overheating) and avoid unnecessary physical activity to conserve energy. So, don't be offended if they aren't down for a pick-up game of basketball or soccer. We can't all be elite athletes.

8. DON'T OBSESS OVER FOOD AND HUNGER.

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One of the worst things you can do to someone on a new diet is to obsess over all the cheeseburgers, pizza, and cupcakes they can't have. Similarly, most Muslims observing Ramadan don't want to have in-depth conversations about all the food and beverages they're avoiding. So, be mindful that you don't become the constant reminder of how many hours are left until sundown—just as you shouldn't joke about weight loss, you shouldn't call attention to any hunger pangs.

9. DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT YOUR OWN FOOD.

Coworkers discussing a project on couches.
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Although it's nice to avoid talking about food in front of a fasting Muslim, don't be afraid to eat your own food as you normally would. Seeing other people eating and drinking isn't offensive—Muslims believe that Ramadan is all about sacrifice and self-discipline, and they're aware that not everyone participates. However, perhaps try to avoid scheduling lunch meetings or afternoon barbecues with your Muslim colleagues and friends. Any of those can surely wait until after Ramadan ends.

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