Bad words


January 30, 2012

As a budding statistician, I struggle with the issue of terminology. Since I’m no longer just a member of the public, I’m expected to have a clearer understanding and use of technically specific words, but I’m just as biased by the popular uses of them! A few words/phrases I’m working on:

“The data is” – I know it is “the data are,” but that still sounds so weird.

“Random” – I still say this when someone says something unexpected, if I run into a long-lost friend at the mall, or if things appear to have no cause. Random is really quite a specific word, and almost every time I say it, the phenomenon is not random. That brings me to my next word,

“Phenomena” – this sounds like the singular, not the plural.

“Chaos” – Similar to random, it has a technically specific meaning that I am almost never using correctly. “It was chaos! Everyone was talking at once!” really doesn’t describe a chaotic situation at all.

Two of these four errors have been unfortunately been documented in slides of presentations. Oops. Don’t judge me til I have my PhD… I’m working on them!