George Bernard Shaw once noted that "England and America are two countries separated by a common language," or perhaps it was Oscar Wilde, or maybe Winston Churchill. At any rate, we find examples of this linguistic divergence in many areas. Automobile terminology seems particularly prone to differences:

- In the United States we say
*fender*, in the United Kingdom they say*wing*. - In the U.S.
*hood*, in the U.K.*bonnet*. - U.S.
*wrench*, U.K.*spanner* *trunk*,*boot**gas*,*petrol**trailer*,*caravan**truck*,*lorry**parking lot*,*car park*

And such differences aren't limited to cars:

*attorney*,*barrister**cookie*,*biscuit**eraser*,*rubber**subway*,*tube*

Since SAS Curriculum Pathways went global, we have found that mathematics terminology follows this same pattern. A few years ago our good friend at the University of Plymouth, David Kaplan, shared this list.

U.S. English |
U.K. English |

math | maths |

to factor; factoring | to factorise; factorising |

parentheses | brackets |

systems of equations | simultaneous equations |

radical | surd |

slope | gradient |

trapezoid | trapezium |

right triangle | right-angled triangle |

Law of Sines | Sine Rule |

Law of Cosines | Cosine Rule |

counter-clockwise | anti-clockwise |

scientific notation | standard index form |

dilation | enlargement |

repeating decimal | recurring decimal |

Now some of these differences seem fairly innocuous. For example, *parentheses* and *brackets* are certainly interchangeable. Whether you consider sines to be governed by a rule or a law will probably not throw off your calculations. And *trapezium* actually sounds much more fun than *trapezoid*.

However, a few of these examples do give a bit of pause. Where exactly did *surd* come from?

So what do you think, *math* or *maths*?

## 2 Comments

The Wiktionary give the entymology of surd as coming from the Latin word

surdus, which means “deaf,” or, in mathematics, "deaf to reason", i.e. irrational.

Interestingly, there are some mathematical typesetting programs that use "surd" as the command to insert the square-root symbol. Must have been written or influenced by the Brits.

Great post! The one that always sends my head spinning is that "public schools" in Britain are the most exclusive and expensive options available. See wiki link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_school_(United_Kingdom)