"sketch out"

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Nov 14 20:25:32 UTC 2012

On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 3:10 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> On Wed, Nov 14, 2012 at 11:23 AM, Ben Zimmer 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."

Thanks, Wilson. As I suggest in the On Language column, I do think MIT
students had a lot to do with the mainstreaming of "random", and it's
good to know that non-hackery types were also in on it.

Here's a looong rumination about the rise of "random" for which I was
interviewed (I talk about MIT again):



Ben Zimmer

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

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