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We are writing a paper about an algorithm that takes a group of solutions and sorts them by their likelihood of being equal to the one and only 'good solution'.

Internally, we refer to this 'good solution' as meromero, which is a Mexican street slang for 'the most important' or the precisely for 'the one and only'.

I like the word because it allows naming an important concept with a funky and short sound. Also, it forces you to draw your eyes towards it, creating some kind of highlight about the ideas related to this 'one and only good solution'.

However, I'm not sure of using it, precisely because it is a slang word and I don't remember ever reading a paper using slang words.

Therefore, my question is:

Is using a slang word to name a concept bad taste in a scientific paper?

Notice that this is merely a personal curiosity, we have already choosen not to use the word.

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    For what it's worth, "meromero" means something completely different in Japanese so you might confuse Japanese readers. In Japanese "meromero" (メロメロ) means either to be "madly in love" or to be "falling down drunk". – Pharap Aug 19 '17 at 1:10
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    @Pharap That settles it. Now I totally need to find a reason to name something "meromero." – Elizabeth Henning Aug 19 '17 at 4:44
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    For the benefit of non-Mexican readers, it's important to point out that the transcription "mero mero" (with a space) is equally (and probably way more) common than the OP's. – E.P. Aug 19 '17 at 5:12
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    Find a good scientific (B)Acronym and call it M.E.R.O.M.E.R.O. – Bergi Aug 19 '17 at 11:53
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    Why does the "one and only good solution" needs a new word, rather than optimum or optimal solution? – The Photon Aug 19 '17 at 15:44
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Your goal in writing scientific papers is for the language to be as intelligible as possible. That is, you want to use language which won't hinder people who are trying to read your paper.

The disadvantage of slang is that it is often not intelligible to many people (especially non-native speakers), and may be idiosyncratic to specific groups. Therefore, if your goal is for the paper to be as intelligible as possible, you would want to avoid using slang.

In addition, scientific writing tends to be relatively formal, which is why slang will often look inappropriate and out of place.

Some papers which mention that you should avoid using slang:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1443950600900817

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/micr.20960/full

It's possible that conventions will be different in your field. When in doubt, look at other publications and use them to guide you.

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    Personally I find that a lot of names and wording are just selected to be fancy or get attention. It would be nice indeed if we could use a sober and formal language... – Alchimista Aug 19 '17 at 0:35
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    @Alchimista Indeed. I never know whether to laugh or cry when someone publishes a programming paper that discusses Brainfuck. – Pharap Aug 20 '17 at 2:23
  • @Alchimista I don't think science always needs to be sober and formal. It should be at least a little fun, at least sometimes ! – icurays1 Aug 20 '17 at 16:21
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    Science is fun independently. Moreover, I agree with you. But the entire field of plastic electronics is named upon plastic, and there are not plastic in there except for some of the bodily substrate. For example. – Alchimista Aug 20 '17 at 16:28
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Mathematicians frequently come up with questionable names drawn from a variety of questionable sources. And then at some point there will be the inevitable MathOverflow thread about why such-and-such is named what it is. I personally rather like "meromero," but in the context you're describing, I don't see how it's an improvement over saying "unique 'good' solution," where you define what exactly you mean by "good."

  • Indeed, I also like the word as a matter of personal taste only :) – El Marce Aug 18 '17 at 22:33
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    Can I use it myself? Not that I have anything in mind at the moment, but it's too good a word to pass up. – Elizabeth Henning Aug 18 '17 at 22:34
  • :D sure! you can use it! – El Marce Aug 18 '17 at 23:21
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    Mathematician here. I can confirm that if I'd read in a paper: "We define the meromero to be the unique solution of Eq. (7) satisfying..." then I would find it a bit odd, but it would certainly not be the strangest terminology I've encountered. A famous example of foreign slang being imported as mathematical terminology is "shtuka" - see ams.org/notices/200301/what-is.pdf – Dan Petersen Aug 19 '17 at 8:58
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    It's an improvement in the sense that "meromero" is shorter than "unique good solution". It's also unambiguous (once it has been defined), whereas "good" could be taken in a general sense or a specific one. – bubba Aug 20 '17 at 11:55
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Honestly, I don't think I'd do it in a scientific paper. There are lots of "internal" name for things in my own lab that I'd never put in a scientific paper. This is especially true if there's not an obvious meaning for it - which is usually true for slang.

The one place people do seem to get away with it is clever acronyms.

I don't know that I'd call it "bad taste", given said slang term isn't offensive. I'd just call it "weird word choice".

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Don't use it, unless - with very good reason - you describe something new that needs a word. Readers won't understand what you are talking about, and it seems that, in this case, our common language is already sufficient to describe what you mean.

6

I will be a slightly contrarian voice here. I think naming your algorithm something memorable is a good idea and if there is a story to go with why you named it that way, all the better. Would CRISPR be all the rage (in the media) right now if it had some sort of daft unpronounceable acronym? Of course it doesn't hurt that it is revolutionary but the name being memorable is important for larger recognition.

Does it really matter what 'wiki' meant when they used it to name Wikipedia? It now means Wikipedia.

I took a class from Rich Sutton and he mentioned how important the name of SARSA was in having the algorithm gain popularity. If it is a word that is pronounceable in most languages, memorable and even fun to say, go for it.

Other algorithms like NEAT and HyperNEAT have benefited from being pronounceable and memorable.

You will be fighting for academic funding for the rest of your life, you might as well realize now that science like most things in life operates by the principles of marketing. For what it's worth I like the name meromero but you might want to do some Googling to make sure it doesn't mean some offensive thing somewhere in the world before you assign it to your baby.

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    I agree. There is also a hugh difference between using slang as part of the running text (which certainly should be avoided) and using a slang word to name something e.g. an algorithm. – md2perpe Aug 20 '17 at 6:18
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Computer science has a tradition, when a new name is needed for a concept, of coining a whimsical term in preference to the approach in the traditional sciences of choosing something that sounds vaguely Latin, Greek, or pompous. Sometimes people invent a completely new term, such as byte or trie or arity, sometimes they adopt an English word and give it a specialised meaning, such as widget, closure, bag, or web, others prefer acronyms or descriptive names ("red-black tree"). Basically, anything is allowed, and perfectly respectable.

You should consider first whether a new term is really needed, taking into account that your readers will probably have to refer back frequently to the place where you introduced it; and secondly whether the term is memorable. A term is more likely to be memorable if it isn't completely arbitrary. A term from English slang might make you seem less-than-serious to some readers, but slang in an obscure language is unlikely to suffer that drawback.

  • I'm not sure I'd characterize the second most common native language (after Mandarin) as "obscure". – Martin Bonner supports Monica Aug 21 '17 at 11:47
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Is using a slang word to name a concept bad taste in a scientific paper?

Not in being slang. You do need to make sure that:

  • your slang-named term is clearly defined without no slang in the definition.
  • you aren't assuming people are aware of the term's connotations (they might not even today, and in several years it may go out of use completely).
  • using that term serves a valid purpose, like memorability.
  • the term is not offensive to the readers (or a social group of people etc).

Other than that I think you're fine.

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