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EtymologyEdit

Coined by Norman Steenrod, popularized by Serge Lang.

NounEdit

abstract nonsense (uncountable)

  1. (mathematics, humorous) Details which are straightforward but so tedious that an author or lecturer would rather skip them (especially those of a category theoretical nature).
  2. (mathematics, humorous) Details which involve diagram chasing.
    • 2016, Emily Riehl, Category Theory in Context (Aurora: Dover modern math originals)‎[1], New York: Dover, →ISBN, OCLC 976394474, page x:
      3Lang’s Algebra [Lan02, p. 759] supports the general consensus that this was not intended as an epithet:
      In the forties and fifties (mostly in the works of Cartan, Eilenberg, MacLane, and Steenrod, see [CE56]), it was realized that there was a systematic way of developing certain relations of linear algebra, depending only on fairly general constructions which were mostly arrow-theoretic, and were affectionately called abstract nonsense by Steenrod.
  3. (mathematics, humorous) Category theory in general.

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