Another one from Michael, who spotted an article about one of my favorite mathematical words to use in everyday speech (much the chagrin of non-scientists) used in the Supereme Court of the United States:
Supreme Court justices deal in words, and they are always on the lookout for new ones.
University of Michigan law professor Richard D. Friedman discovered that Monday when he answered a question from Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, but added that it was “entirely orthogonal” to the argument he was making in Briscoe v. Virginia.
Friedman attempted to move on, but Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. stopped him.
“I’m sorry,” Roberts said. “Entirely what?”
“Orthogonal,” Friedman repeated, and then defined the word: “Right angle. Unrelated. Irrelevant.”
“Oh,” Roberts replied.
“What was that adjective?” Scalia asked Monday. “I liked that.”
“Orthogonal,” Friedman said.
“Orthogonal,” Roberts said.
“Orthogonal,” Scalia said. “Ooh.”
Friedman seemed to start to regret the whole thing, saying the use of the word was “a bit of professorship creeping in, I suppose,” but Scalia was happy.
“I think we should use that in the opinion,” he said.
“Or the dissent,” added Roberts, who in this case was in rare disagreement with Scalia.
Of course last time I commented on using mathematical words outside of their natural habitat it spawned a comment thread with over 2000 comments.
Other favorites that I like to sneak into casual conversation are “canonical”, “dual”, and “asymptotic.” Other good scientific / math words that you like to use in everyday conversation?