Beavers are overrunning Language Log today. First there was Bill Poser’s impressive post on Carrier beaver words (which describe not only beavers of various sizes but ‘newly mated beaver couple,’ ‘beaver channel under the ice,’ and ‘pair of beaver lodges built close together behind one dam,’ inter alia); then Mark Liberman followed up with Beaver vocabulary from another culture, describing the arcane castorcentric terms of MIT (given “as they would be pronounced in the archaic Building 20 dialect”). My only quarrel with the latter is the final element, billed as “the informative and inspiring ritual chant of the MIT Women’s Track and Field and Cross Country squad”:

E to the u du dx,
E to the x, dx.
Cosine, secant, tangent, sine,
3 point 1 4 1 5 9.
Integral, radical, mu, dv
Slipstick, sliderule, MIT!

(I have omitted the introit and final, since they are not relevant here.) Now, in the first place, I am pretty sure that the proper formulation is “e to the x dy dx,” and I was a math major before switching to linguistics, so I’ll bow to my own authority. In the second place, I object to the labeling of this as an MIT chant. I’m sure it has been so used, but I heard it many years ago (minus the MIT reference, of course) as the unforgettable chant of the Caltech cheerleading squad, with which I am familiar as a graduate of an institution whose football team was so execrable Caltech was the only team it could regularly beat. And I have evidence that it is of ancient lineage, to wit the primitive version quoted (probably misquoted) in this International Slide Rule Yahoo! Group message (emphasis added):

Here are two that Gene Shoemaker used at Caltech in the mid forties. These
are both listed on pages 22 & 23 in David Levy’s biography “Shoemaker by
Levy, The Man Who Made an Impact”
e to the x the x the x
e to the x the x the x
e to the x the x the x
e to the x dx [delta x]
Sliiii . . . de rule! Tech tech tech tech tech tech tech!!!
Cotan, tangent, cosine, sine
Sliiii . . . de rule! Tech tech tech tech tech tech tech!!!

West Coast representing, yo.


  1. Now, in the first place, I am pretty sure that the proper formulation is “e to the x dy dx,”
    Not in the version chanted at MIT, I’m afraid. The Tech Cheer (whatever its origins) is the one Mark Liberman quoted.

  2. The Oregon State totem is a Beaver, too, but I think that their lore tends in the female genitalia direction. At least, that’s what the U. of Oregon Ducks claim.
    The Ducks will play my home-state Minnesota Gophers this year. I suppose the loser will be declared the silliest football totem of all, except for the Delaware Fighting Blue Hens.

  3. Not in the version chanted at MIT, I’m afraid.
    That’s as may be. I was talking about the proper version.
    (How long can I keep dissing MIT before a squad comes over to take me out?)
    zizka: If the Ducks lose, they should change their name to the Geoducks — The Name Nobody Can Pronounce.

  4. Telling no lie, here, my alma mater, Evergreen State College, has as its totem the Geoduck. The most phallic looking creature in existence. (Sports weren’t regarded very seriously there.)

  5. Santa Cruz has the Banana Slug. Quite phallic enough for most people. My brother has observed them making love. I won’t go into detail, except that large amounts of slime are involved.

  6. Chris Schulman says:

    Doubtless there are many variations on the MIT cheer. For posterity’s sake, Rice University’s version is:
    E to the x, dy dx
    E to the x, dx
    Secant tangent cosine sine
    Cube root, square root, BTU
    Compass, sliderule, go Rice U!

  7. That first one quoted by Levy sounds like it started out as Aristophanes:
    FROGS (off stage)
    Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax,
    Brekekekex, ko-ax, ko-ax!
    E-to-the-ex, the-ex, the-ex,
    E-to-the-ex, the-ex, the ex!
    Would that make this cheer 2400 years old?

  8. This is the way I remember reading it, about 35 years ago, probably in Sports Illustrated, and credited to RPI. I’m not exactly sure of the dy dx, but you’ll note the metrical superiority of the remainder
    e to the x, dy dx
    tangent secant cosine sine
    square root, cube root, log of pi
    disintegrate them

  9. in my calculus book we are taught e to the u du dx where u represents a function and the du dx is the chain rule part of it or something like that.

  10. It’s (e to the x)du/dv, (e to the x)dv….and if you don’t recognize the significance of that, it’s good thing you changed majors. ;-)
    Also, it’s integral, square root, du/dv.
    I don’t about Caltech, but at MIT this cheer goes back at least to the 1930s and probably before.

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