As a share of the population, the number of people who participate in fine art auctions is miniscule. To an outsider (that is to say, most human beings), the rituals of an auction—from paddle waving to forking over thousands for a work of art—are intimidating enough. And then there’s the language, a lexicon with its own nuances and auction-specific meanings. While we may not be able to get you a seat to the evening sales at Christie’s or Sotheby’s, we can help you understand what they’re talking about. Here’s a breakdown of a few terms to know and, more importantly, what they tell us about how the auction market operates, so you can understand what exactly is going on when an auctioneer bangs his or her gavel.