= C =
coefficient of X n.
Hackish speech makes heavy use of
pseudo-mathematical metaphors. Four particularly important
ones involve the terms `coefficient', `factor', `index of X', and
`quotient'. They are often loosely applied to things you cannot
really be quantitative about, but there are subtle distinctions
among them that convey information about the way the speaker
mentally models whatever he or she is describing.
`Foo factor' and `foo quotient' tend to describe something for
which the issue is one of presence or absence. The canonical
example is fudge factor. It's not important how much you're
fudging; the term simply acknowledges that some fudging is needed.
You might talk of liking a movie for its silliness factor.
Quotient tends to imply that the property is a ratio of two
opposing factors: "I would have won except for my luck quotient."
This could also be "I would have won except for the luck factor",
but using quotient emphasizes that it was bad luck
overpowering good luck (or someone else's good luck overpowering
`Foo index' and `coefficient of foo' both tend to imply
that foo is, if not strictly measurable, at least something that
can be larger or smaller. Thus, you might refer to a paper or
person as having a `high bogosity index', whereas you would be less
likely to speak of a `high bogosity factor'. `Foo index' suggests
that foo is a condensation of many quantities, as in the mundane
cost-of-living index; `coefficient of foo' suggests that foo is a
fundamental quantity, as in a coefficient of friction. The choice
between these terms is often one of personal preference; e.g., some
people might feel that bogosity is a fundamental attribute and thus
say `coefficient of bogosity', whereas others might feel it is a
combination of factors and thus say `bogosity index'.
--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.