"sketch out"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 14 20:10:31 UTC 2012

On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 11:23 AM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> Rando

The former M.I.T. campus guesthouse was universally known as "Random
Hall." If it had another, official designation, that designation was
never used by "Tech tools." Why that (nick)name? Because "any _random_
person" could stay there, of course.

What's referred to as a "major" elsewhere is called a "course" at The
Tech/The Tute - used in linguistics, since only random students were
M.I.T. grads familiar with the traditions of The Tech - and given a
number. Linguistics, once "Course 23," is now "Course 24."

Anyway, out-course students in general were called "random" by
in-course students. It wasn't just a "computer-hack" thing. And it was
definitely disparaging, but in a "friendly" way, as in the reference
to Harvard as "a red-brick school both up the street and up the river
from The Tech."

Harvard being Harvard, there wasn't any special reference to M.I.T.,
merely a feeder of distinguished faculty, e.g. Steven Pinker, to the
World's Greatest University.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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