Words in mathematics

You learn all kinds of words doing mathematics.

Yes, more than just curses.

For an example, the first time I came across the word “annulus” (2D donut) I was certain it was a misprint because, by Gawd, surely I’d have heard a word like that somewhere before if it existed, as all the geometric terms before that had been respectable English words — but no.

It does not help that, apparently, the word is sometimes spelled “anulus”, which sounds like an unspeakable speculum for the hinter regions.

Brings unpleasant reflections of the whole “but ass. f anal.” subject. (Actual blackboard quote. And there was much rejoicing at the psych department. “‘But assume f is analytic’, they said! Ke ke ke!”)

Another is the word “trivial” — I have a hypothesis that while most people know what it means, the only ones that can actually use it are mathematicians, apart from those that append “pursuit” to it. Same with “corollary”: most people sort of know what it means, but only a mathematical person would actually utter the word.

Maybe mathematics is a great potential source of technobabble? “Captain! The trivial core has reached annular mass — we must initiate contour integration in parametric form now!

“This is not over yet, Augustus De Morgkhaaaaan!


Many mathematical objects are named using already existing English words — but eventually you drift into the “inventor’s name object type” territory (Hausdorff measure, Cox-Zucker machine, Hilbert space — and don’t try to tell me the middle one, so named by a person that wasn’t Cox or Zucker, wasn’t named so with immense malicious snickering), and when even those names are too frequent, you’re in the “well, you could study braaaap which are the nhaaaar of K-(1,n)-thaaaaab” territory — not only are the things horrendously abstract, but even the words are French, German or something such!

(“What do you study?” — “Scheisse functions.”)

(To say nothing of the Finnish words for these objects — but when there are roughly dozen or maybe two dozen people in the intersection of Finnish-speakers and practitioners of this branch of mathematics, you don’t need names other than the English ones.)

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