An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Do You Speak MIT?

  • Brielle Domings
  • Slice of MIT
  • 3

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In an entirely unscientific survey, the MIT Alumni Association asked alumni what word, phrase, or acronym would reveal they went to MIT. While the responses varied, one thing is for certain: The MIT community has a language all its own.

“You’re setting yourself up with that question about acronyms,” said Rajesh Raghavan ’92, responding with a certain infamous MIT acronym.

Even common words known around the world take on a different connotation at the Institute.

“If I shouted out, ‘Gotta tool,’ most MIT students would understand that immediately,” said Douglas Smith ’86, SM ’87. “It means I have a problem set due in the morning, it’s 3:00 a.m., and I have 12 hours of work left to do.”

Watch the video to see how alumni answered, and share your own response in the comments below.

Speak MIT with your friends and classmates at this year’s MIT Tech Reunions taking place June 1-4 on MIT's campus. 

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Douglas Limbert

Wed, 05/17/2023 7:58pm

I was disappointed that "the Great Dome" was not among those listed, although I recall the "$1900 is too damn much" riot in 1967 and the "$2150 is TFM" one a year or two later.

Peter Ross

Sun, 05/21/2023 4:35am

IHTFP misses the boat, as older alumni wouldn't know what it meant. The word for us would be "hacker" or even "tool", and I suspect that both are still in use at MIT?
Peter Ross '61

Mitchell Bogart

Mon, 07/10/2023 5:05pm

Everyone missed a favorite! "Foobar" (these days its first syllable is spelled with a 'u').
It might have come from the military industrial complex's colorful vocabulary (like their little bomb affectionately called "the daisycutter")
It certainly permeated computer science classes (in '73) as in, "Let's say you have two pointers, "foo" and "bar", that both point to the same variable...
I never really asked anyone about them, but finally had the "Oh!" moment way after finishing favorite class 6.251 (Thank you, Professor Winston!)