Mathematical terms adopted in general use

In summary, the conversation discusses the incorporation of mathematical terms into everyday language, with examples such as 'factor out', 'a function of', and 'exponentially'. The participants also consider whether these terms originated in mathematics or in non-mathematical contexts. They also mention other phrases that have both mathematical and non-mathematical meanings, such as 'select a variety of points' and 'categories remaining to be explored'. One participant shares a witty example of a mathematical term used in a colloquial way. There is also a mention of a book that features a clever use of a mathematical concept in its plot. Overall, the conversation highlights the influence of mathematics on everyday language and the potential for creative use of mathematical terms in various
  • #1


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I might as well get a reaction on these idle thoughts or I will continue to think them.

Something must be left over from schoolroom or uni because it seems to me a number mathematical terms have been incorporated into everyday or colloquial language.

One that I think is relatively recent is 'factor out'. It is used in close to mathematical meaning, you have a problem about F but F = f X g, so you can factor out f and worry just about g.

The best other example I can think of is 'a function of'.

Others are in terms of, lowest common denominator occasionally l.c. factor , exponentially.

We have to consider whether any example is really an example. An infinite number of examples maybe did not come from maths?

Nor maybe go off on a tangent? - though that always makes me picture a circle with a tangent line and a point moving round the circle but when it meets the tangent goes along that.

Of most interest are fairly widespread ones, not very slangy or confined to a small circle, e.g. students, at least let us distinguish them (general solutions more than special cases?) and talk about where we think they came from. Though maybe colloquial things do start in small circles - I have an impression that 'factor out' which I cannot remember in use ten or twenty years ago started with people who need to sound streetsmart, financial advisors, estate agents,...

I cannot resist quoting one which I read is confined to Philadelphia - factorial. As in "She's size 12" "No man, she's size factorial 12!". Quite witty!

No doubt there will be some transatlantic differences.
Any thoughts or other examples?
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  • #2
Prime numbers and subprime crisis.
  • #3
A valley girl thing "... and, you know, XYZ..." where XYZ refers to an unknown or long series of things that the speaker does not wish to actually name.
  • #4
I think most of the examples you listed are more likely things that started out being non-mathematical concepts and were later adopted as being mathematical
  • #5
I don't have any good examples, but I always enjoy seeing phrases in ordinary language that also have precise mathematical meaning:

"select a variety of points from the following diagram..."

"there are many categories remaining to be explored..."
  • #6
junglebeast said:
I think most of the examples you listed are more likely things that started out being non-mathematical concepts and were later adopted as being mathematical

I tried not to have those; there are some borderline cases I discuss. Let us see what some others think.
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  • #7
One that impressed me was used by James P. Hogan in one of his books. It involved a parallel universe that people were traveling back and forth to from ours. The people were duplicated on both worlds, so nobody could tell which one belonged where. The alternate world had never had a cold war. The hero detected the villainess on the alternate world because...
...she used the term 'went ballistic' in describing someone's behaviour. That phrase was born with the missile crisis.

1. What is the definition of "exponential growth"?

Exponential growth refers to a pattern of growth in which the quantity being measured increases at a constant rate over a period of time. This results in a rapid increase in the value of the quantity over time.

2. How is "standard deviation" used in statistics?

Standard deviation is a statistical measure of the amount of variation or dispersion in a set of data values. It is calculated by finding the square root of the variance, which is the average of the squared differences from the mean. It is often used to measure the spread of data points around the mean and to compare the variability of different data sets.

3. What is the meaning of "slope" in mathematics?

Slope is a measure of the steepness of a line on a graph. It is calculated by dividing the change in the vertical (y) values by the change in the horizontal (x) values between two points on the line. It is commonly used to represent the rate of change of a variable over time or in a given situation.

4. How does "probability" differ from "odds"?

Probability and odds are both measures of likelihood, but they are calculated differently. Probability is expressed as a number between 0 and 1, representing the likelihood of an event occurring. Odds, on the other hand, are expressed as a ratio of the number of favorable outcomes to the number of unfavorable outcomes. For example, if the probability of an event is 0.25, the odds would be 1:3.

5. Can you explain the concept of "absolute value"?

Absolute value refers to the distance of a number from zero on a number line. It is always a positive value, regardless of whether the original number was positive or negative. It is denoted by two vertical bars surrounding the number. For example, the absolute value of -5 is 5, because -5 is 5 units away from 0 on the number line.

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