We were beginning a section on complex numbers in my intermediate algebra class when Karen Sheelar (Her name used with her permission and encouragement.) said, “Can’t we call them ‘fluffy’ numbers?” What a good idea! I have always disliked the term ‘complex number’ with its negative connotations particularly in the context of an algebra class. And I usually say so. Karen beat me to the punch. I used the term ‘fluffy number’ intermittently throughout the hour and in my next algebra class and felt better for it.
‘Fluffy’ is the perfect word. Snugglely, cuddlely,or cute don’t quite make the grade. My wife suggested ‘unicorn numbers’ but I don’t like the aura of magic and fantasy. Other terms that make me feel good would be ‘hot coffee numbers’, ‘home-made pizza numbers’, and ‘split pea soup with ham numbers’, but maybe I am just hungry.