How to say $\mathcal{E}$ when we are speaking about mathematics? Can I call it "curly E"?

And also how to pronounce $\mathcal{A}$ and $\mathcal{B}$ and $\mathcal{P}$ and so on?

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    $\begingroup$ Why should anyone bother answering if you're planning to delete their answer? $\endgroup$ Jan 21 '18 at 3:29
  • $\begingroup$ > I may delete it once I get the answer. $\endgroup$
    – user223391
    Jan 21 '18 at 3:37
  • $\begingroup$ This is something you can google for $\endgroup$
    – QuIcKmAtHs
    Jan 21 '18 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ I cannot type strange letters on google $\endgroup$
    – Ma Joad
    Jan 21 '18 at 3:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For future reference, you cannot delete a question once someone has spent time and energy answering it. $\endgroup$ Jan 21 '18 at 4:24

It depends on your audience and the context. In physics, $\mathcal E$ usually denotes emf, so you would say that. In set theory, $\mathcal P$ usually denotes a power set, so you would say that. Otherwise, just do your best to describe it in a manner that your audience would understand. “Curly” or “calligraphic” works fine in my opinion.

Side note: You actually can type $\mathcal E$ into Google if you use the Unicode character ℰ (U+2130).


A useful resource for "speaking" mathematics is The Handbook for Spoken Mathematics by Lawrence A. Chang. This book suggests that we should use a description of the font or script, plus the name of the letter (see pages 3–5). Hence $\mathcal{E}$ might be read as "calligraphic capital $E$". In most contexts, this would likely be overkill and require too much talking—I gather that much of the intent of the Handbook is to give a guide for instructors of blind students. Hence an abbreviated "calligraphic E" might also be appropriate, as we can rely on students to read / copy what is on the board in most circumstances.

Other thoughts (including those above):

  • Follow the handbook: "calligraphic capital [letter]" or "calligraphic [letter]".
  • Describe the letter more loosely: "script [letter]", "curly [letter]", or "cursive [letter]".
  • Use TeX: "mathcal [letter]" or "cal [letter]".[1]
  • Don't Sweat It: "[letter]".[2]
  • Name the Symbol from Context: as suggested in this answer, the symbols may have specific meaning in a given context. For example, $\mathcal{H}$ is "the Hilbert space H", and the symbols $\mathcal{X}$ and $\mathcal{Y}$ are "the Banach spaces $X$ and $Y$".

[1] This is what I find myself doing most often. The symbol $\mathscr{H}$ is "math script H", while $\mathfrak A$ is "mathfrak A". This sometimes causes me problems in classrooms where I am dealing with students who don't know TeX, but has never been an issue when talking with my peers.

[2] This option will often be the most appropriate. For example, the space of distributions $\mathcal{E}'$ is just "E prime". There may be potential for ambiguity, but in many, many contexts, it just won't be a problem. I mean, do we often make a big deal about an element $x$ in a space $X$? Sometimes we carefully speak the letters out loud, but I find myself saying "Let eks be an element of eks..." more often than I care to admit.


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