Erdösese - a mathematical variant of English


home | courses | topics | theorems | starters | worksheets | timeline | KS3 | KS4 | KS5


Paul Erdös was truly a mathematician of the 20th century. His life story is related to almost everything there is to tell about the development of mathematics in that century. Erdös, although not directly, experienced the consequences of the two world wars, was part of the new international cooperation among mathematicians from around the world, and has even been compared to one of the greatest technological and social inventions of the century - the Internet. Bruce Schechter who in 1998 wrote a book about Erdös said that "in the years before the Internet, there was Paul Erdös. He carried a shopping bag crammed with the latest papers, and his brain was stuffed with the latest gossip as well as an amazing database of the world of mathematics."

Erdös was born in Hungary but left it (as he was a Jew) in 1938 to study in England. Eventually he went to the USA but was fifteen years later expelled for speaking freely during the McCarthy era (Cold War and all that!). He wrote more than 1500 papers cooperating with more than 450 mathematicians during his lifetime.

Erdös began to develop his own language which is now known as Erdösese while still a student of mathematics. He borrowed freely from the mathematical jargon to use in everyday language. For example, he called children epsilons , after a Greek letter that mathematicians use to denote small quantities which tends towards infinitely small. When his friend was arrested and imprisoned in 1933, Erdös told their friends that he was "studying Jordan's theorem". Jordan's theorem states that every closed curve divides the plane into an inside and an outside.

He also called the communists as ones on 'the long wavelenght' - as the wavelength of the colour red is the longest in the visible spectrum.

He also used a phrase "give me an epsilon of poison" when he wanted a sip of wine.

Get some ideas here - and use the real language of mathematics - which you can map against lists of things that you will be using often. Try inventing your own "-ese"! Click on the image beneath to see or download a worksheet.


Erdos as a child

Erdös with his mather in 1916

with both of his parents several years later...

Erdös as a young teenager

Here is another picture of Erdös as a young boy.

And, if you want to see some of the other mathematicians when they were children, go to the page where they are all listed.

Click here


artefacts | numerals | concepts | people | places | pythagoreans | egyptians | babylonians


Search WWW Search


Acknowledgements | Copyright | Contact | Mission Statement | Tell a friend about this site