Dear UCSD community,

I’m searching for fun and playful uses of academic jargon that you may have heard or that you yourself may use in day-to-day non-academic conversations.


Chemist: “She’s a real valence shell electron” – She has high energy and participates in a lot of activities.

Math student: “I did infinitely worse on this real analysis test than on the last.”
Math professor: “There’s a lower bound.”

Atmospheric scientist: “Let’s take the view from the upper troposphere” – the 30,000-foot view.

Economist 1: “How’s the new exercise regimen going?”
Economist 2: “Let’s just say I’m working on the intensive margin.” – I’m not doing more exercise, but I’m trying to increase the efficiency of what I’m already doing.
Mathematician: “Well you’ll always be the same, topologically speaking.”
Economist 2: “That’s right, who needs a metric?” – In topology, a coffee cup is the “same” as a donut, and a star athlete is the “same” as a couch potato, up to homeomorphism.

Physicist: “I’m getting better at this, from a Lagrangian perspective” – I’m getting better relative to my own frame of reference, perhaps not as well from a fixed external (Eulerian) frame of reference.

Control theorist 1: “How’s the project going?”
Control theorist 2: “No poles on the right half-plane.” Everything is stable.

I’m trying to build a collection of these kinds of expressions. (Sorry if these were terrible!)

Jokes are also welcome.

E.g., I once saw Ron Graham give a lecture in which a student called out an error at the board (a “>” where there should have been a “<”). He said “Reminds me of the old joke about the math professor who said A but wrote B. He was thinking C, but really the answer was D.”

I thought it was funny.

Email submissions to: with the subject line: “Jokes”

Arts and humanities jokes and jargon are welcome! Please note your discipline in your submission and whether you’d like to be named or remain anonymous.

I’ll upload jokes and expressions to:
at the end of the quarter.

Thanks & best regards,

Tom Corringham