In an effort to present a more inclusive, diversity-conscious face to the university at large, Stanford’s Math Department has taken a serious look at the officially recognized terminology. The push towards reform started with the concerns of partially-bathed Horatio Hurlbutt, a socially-minded junior fed up with the status quo. “It’s just sickening,” he said, nearly dropping his Divestment picket sign in the heat of his gesticulation. “To think that our imperialistic, chauvinistic, materialistic, corporate lexicon oppresses individuality and difference, it’s appalling. And this is truest in mathematics, with its even-normative jargon, intolerant of numerical rights. Something needs to be done.”
In response to student outcry, the entry in the Mathematics Stylebook on “improper fractions” now reads: “‘Improper’ is meant to refer to a process, not a number. No number is ‘improper.’” Activists further objected to charged words like ‘mixed,’ ‘irrational,’ ‘negative,’ ‘imaginary,’ and ‘odd,’ which for years have kept well-meaning Arithmetic-Americans in rhetorical shackles.
“And who’s to say what is and isn’t a ‘normal’ distribution?!” chimed in pantsuit-sporting Florence Goss. “Also, we need to do away with the ‘mean;’ there’s too much hatred in math. We need less ‘differentiation,’ and more ‘integration.’” The impassioned movement has even extended to symbols, namely the abolition of ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ signs. Things are also beginning to take a moral turn, with many uptight members of student society decrying the use of inappropriate terminology such as ‘HyPOTenuse’ and ‘ASSymptote,’ along with the number 80085, seen by many as the source of contemporary immorality, while yet another faction is attempting to extend gender equality into the realm of math nomenclature by introducing words such as ‘ma’am-cumference’ and ‘womanifold.’
Other departments are set to follow the Math Department’s example, with physicists poised to redefine its terminology, teaching new students about Newton’s ‘Suggestions’ of Motion.