Math Symbols Crashing

April 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm 3 comments

To most of us, it’s just the at symbol. But to the Dutch, its an apestaart, or “monkey’s tail.”

At Symbol

That’s a much cooler name, and it’s the one I’ll be using from now on. (Apparently apeklootje is another alternative, but since “little monkey’s testicles” isn’t appropriate in all situations, I’ll stick with apestaart.)

A lot of the symbols we use in math and on the Internet have boring colloquial names: at symbol, plus sign, fraction bar. But all of those items have aliases that are not only more descriptive, but hipper, too.

I propose that we start using those pseudonyms. Think how much more colorful our conversations would be…

An Olympic announcer might declare:

What a magnificent lemniscate by Yevgeny Plushenko!

Though if it’s used in reference to winter sports, a better spelling might be lemniSKATE.

When checking your voice mail, you might be prompted as follows:

 After the tone, enter your passcode, followed by the octothorpe key.

Droid Pound SignOr you might have the following conversation with a friend:

What’s the URL of your favorite web site?


You might also use macron, caret, or many others — but I won’t, because I’m just not that creative.

What other symbols have cool names that ought to be used in regular conversation?

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Math Pranks Improving a Math Game

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. xhenderson  |  April 9, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    I love the term “obelus” (that little division symbol that we see in third grade, then never again once we learn about fractions). I try to use it in conversation as much as possible, but no one ever knows what I am talking about. 😦

  • 2. venneblock  |  April 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    Would a vertical stack of them be an “obelus obelisk”?

    No worries about no one understanding what you’re talking about. That’s how I spend 90% of my life.

  • 3. (x, why?)  |  April 12, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    Lemniscate? Let’s have Fun With 8! (And annoy the spell-checker, apparently!)


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The Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks blog is an online extension to the book Math Jokes 4 Mathy Folks. The blog contains jokes submitted by readers, new jokes discovered by the author, details about speaking appearances and workshops, and other random bits of information that might be interesting to the strange folks who like math jokes.

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