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From time to time, I come across some unusual mathematical terms. I know something about strange attractors. I also know what Witch of Agnesi is. However, what prompted me to write this question is that I was really perplexed when I read the other day about monstrous moonshine, and this is so far my favorite, out of similar terms.

Some others:

Are there more such unusual terms in mathematics?


Jan 17 update: for fun, word cloud of all terms mentioned here so far:

enter image description here

and another, more readable:

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ I've always been tickled by 'Fuzzy Logic.' $\endgroup$ Jan 13 '15 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ The `Golden ratio' $\phi$. $\endgroup$
    – Pixel
    Jan 13 '15 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ It may say more about me than about math, but if I need to give a strange sounding math term, then perverse sheaves is my go-to-answer. $\endgroup$ Jan 13 '15 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ Shouldn't this be CW? $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila
    Jan 13 '15 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ “The question is widely applicable to a large audience. A detailed canonical answer is required to address all the concerns.” what. $\endgroup$
    – k.stm
    Jan 15 '15 at 19:21

39 Answers 39

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Telling a story on myself. When as a graduate student I first heard about noetherian rings (before I saw a definition) I wanted to know what an ether was, so I could think about a ring that didn't have any of them.

I later taught for a while at Bryn Mawr College, where a colleague used Emmy Noether's desk.

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Game theory has a trembling hand, some cheap talk, and, collectively, an El Farol Bar problem.

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In the Banach space theory there is a property called local unconditional structure, which is l.u.st for short. Another property is the Dunford-Pettis property which is DP for short.

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Soap Film Problem - this is actually another term for "minimal surface problems", since soap bubbles or other similar soap forms tend to minimize their surface.

Links here and here.

Also, Antoine's necklace.

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Nice topology tool

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The Tietze Extension Theorem is always a good one, and Heine-Borel if the speaker doesn't have his German pronunciations down.

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I'm a big fan of Krylov Subspace Methods, which I remain convinced are actually ways of detecting cloaked Klingon birds of prey.

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The Sieve of Eratosthenes is an abstract thing given a mundane (concrete) name, not unlike the "snowflake".  And I've heard that the term googol was chosen specifically because it sound funny.

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John H. Conway and Simon B. Kochen's free will theorem

Free will theorem

And some theorems/terms named after unusual mathematicians. For example

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