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Humor in der Mathematik

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Dictionary of phrases used in mathematical writing

by H. Pétard

Society for Useless Research

What authors say What they mean
This is an analogue of I have to have some excuse for publishing it
This is of interest in applications I have to have some excuse for publishing it
The proof is now complete I can't finish it
I cannot follow the details of X's proof It's wrong
We omit the details of this calculation I can't do it
This problem is difficult I don't know the answer
Without loss of generality I have done an easy special case
To fix the ideas To consider the only case I can do
X's proof is ingenious I understand it
It may be of interest I have to have some excuse for publishing it
X's paper is interesting I don't understand it
This is a known result but I reproduce the proof for the convenience of the reader My paper isn't long enough
Par abus de langage In the terminology used by other authors
It is natural to begin with the following considerations We have to start somewhere
This was proved by X but the following new proof may present some points of interest I can't understand X
To simplify the notation It is too much trouble to change now
It will be observed that I hope you have not noticed that
It is obvious I can't prove it
The details may be left to the reader I can't do it
I wish to thank the referee for his suggestions I loused it up
By a straightforward computation I lost my notes
This problem is trivial I know the answer
This result is well known I can't find the reference
Exercises for students:  
I am indebted to Professor X for stimulating discussions
However, as we have seen
In general
It is easily shown
To be continued


This glossary is cited from an article published in Amer. Math. Monthly 73, 196-197 (1966). H. Pétard is a pseudonym of Ralph Boas and Frank Smithies. The full text of the article is reprinted in "Lion Hunting and Other Mathematical Pursuits - A collection of mathematics, verse, and stories by Ralph P. Boas, Jr.", G. L. Alexanderson, D. H. Mugler, eds., published by the Mathematical Association of America.


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