I am reading an article here.



You may say, "Well why did Berkshire Hathaway institute their B shares then?" If it were up to Buffett, the company never would have done this, but their hand was forced. Buffett did this move "reluctantly" and only to thwart the creation of unit trusts that would have marketed themselves as Berkshire Hathaway look-alikes.

How can they share one hand?


This is an idiomatic use of hand: to force X’s hand means to “compel X to do something” which X would rather not do.

  • First, their refers not to individuals but to the company; this might have been expressed just as correctly with its. It is the company’s hand which was forced, not the individual hands of individual stockholders.

  • Second, there are no actual hands involved, only a single metaphorical ‘hand’, a collective willingness to act.

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"Hand" in this context, refers to cards that you hold in "hand," in a game.

The meaning of the quote was not that Berkshire's "hand(s)" was forced in any literal sense, but the company was forced to play the "game" in a certain way, by issuing B shares. Or else the unit trusts would have done so (in a round about way).

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  • I don't think the term relates to cards, but rather to the fact that many actions are controlled by the use of one hand. – supercat Sep 29 '14 at 2:18
  • @supercat: That's true more "blue collar workers." But most executives are white collar workers. – Tom Au Oct 1 '14 at 13:51
  • How many hands would be required to sign a document? – supercat Oct 1 '14 at 14:49

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