What’s in a Trend?

I sometimes forget myself and use “trend”. Then I see a post like “Trends for Existing Home Sales in the U.S.” and am reminded why “trend” is a bad word. This graphic is the centerpiece of the post:

There was a sort of upward trend from June 2016 until August 2017, but the trend stopped. So it wasn’t really a trend was it? (I am here using “trend” in way that it seems to be used generally, that is, as a direction of movement into the future.)

After a sort of flat period, the trend turned upward again, didn’t it? No, because the trend had been broken, so a new trend began in the early part of 2018. But it was a trend only until August 2018, when it became a different trend — mostly downward for several months.

Is there a flat trend now, or as the author of the piece puts it: “Existing home sales in the U.S. largely continued treading water through August 2019”? Well that was the trend — temporary pattern is a better descriptor — but it doesn’t mean that the value of existing-home sales will continue to hover around $1.5 trillion.

The moral of the story: The problem with “trend” is that it implies a direction of movement into the future —  a future will look like a lot like the past. But a trend is only a trend for as long as it lasts. And who knows how long it will last, that is, when it will stop?

I hope to start a trend toward the disuse of “trend”. My hope is futile.