18 New Math Terms for Lingweenies
Have you met a mathemagician? Even if you haven’t, you’ve no doubt heard this neologism that many math educators are using to descirbe themselves.
1. a mathematician who practices magic
2. a mathematician or math educator who thinks that what he does with numbers is magical
3. a person who believes that neither doing magic nor doing math is, by itself, quite dorky enough
I love words, and I love math. But personally, mathemagician is a neologism I could have done without.
On the other hand, there are some coined words that deserve special praise. Rich Hall is the undisputed king of neologicians — in the mid-1980’s, Hall hosted a segment on the monthly HBO series Not Necessarily the News entirely dedicated to sniglets.
any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should
Hall coined many sniglets, and viewers of the show submitted others. Sniglets became so popular that they led to five books (one for children), a game, and a sniglet-a-day calendar.
My favorite sniglet was mega-nega-bar.
the line you put after the written amount on a check, to prevent someone from adding “and one million dollars”
Though not one of Hall’s sniglets, the following self-referential neologism deserves a gold star, too.
a person incapable of producing neologisms
Make up a word and its definition.
Admittedly, this post comes a few days late, as the 230th day of the year was August 25. But the topic is one worth exploring, as there are many new terms that aren’t in math dictionaries, but perhaps they should be. (Or maybe not.)
The following list contains neologisms that you should feel free to use in daily conversation and at cocktail parties, especially if your audience consists of people who understand the statement, “The kernel of the adjoint of a linear transformation is both the annihilator space of the image of the transformation and also the dual space of the quotient of the space of which the image is a subspace by the image subspace.”
an illegal mathematical move when working with rational numbers, such as dividing by 0 or assuming that a/b + c/d = (a + b)/(c + d)
almost, but not quite, without bound
a laugh that follows a joke in trigonometry class, like when the teacher asks, “What is the sine of 40?” and a student responds, “Saying things like, ‘When I was your age…'”
- Mö·bi·us trip
a vacation that only requires a one-way ticket
a person who divides things into two parts
a learned male who has frequent digressions
the exclamation made before the magical moment of solving an algebra problem
any period of bitter coldness, such as September through July in North Dakota
any of the recurring numbers that often serve as least common denominators, especially the two-digit numbers 24, 36, 48, 72, and 96 that appear regularly in the answers to fraction exercises of middle school math textbooks
a self-similar geometric shape that has become extinct (or is, at least, out of fashion)
the common value of the mode and median in a data set (for sets in which the mode and median are equal)
a group of three-sided objects
friendly and jovial but also irrelevant
deserving of contempt because it feels so right
a math department consisting of 600 geometricians
containing enough awesomeness that it makes you flip
a new math term
an unfriendly algebraic expression involving only one term, such as 323 u2 g3 l5 y7
Of course, no list of new words would be very effective without examples. The following sentences use several of the neologisms above.
Just before dividing his assistant in two, the bisectual mathemagician proclaimed, “Alge-cadabra!”
Though a contrivial tangentleman, the senior member of the squadrant often threw perpendiculous parties.
It’s not uncommon for students to commit malefractions, especially when a problem does not involve a phenominator.