I had heard that a sensible scheme for naming functions and arguments should avoid somewhat arbitrary abbreviations. There are, for example, a multitude of ways to abbreviate or misspell infinity, but a single correct one that is much easier to remember than any specific abbreviation, e.g. infnty.

Why then do we have \infty? What was Knuth thinking? Am I the only one gets this wrong 50% of the time when I need it? Am I missing something about the programming style of latex?

  • Idle speculation not informed by any actual historical evidence: It's nice to have to type only 5 letters ("infty") rather than 8 letters ("infinity") -- fewer chances of typos, if nothing else... Abbreviating the name of the macro even further, e.g., to just 3 letters, was probably judged unwise as ambiguity might arise with respect to the math operator \inf ("infimum").
    – Mico
    Sep 22, 2016 at 7:52
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    presumably because it is faster to type. Similar question: why is \cong the name for = with a ~ on top. \congruence might be a better name. You can always make your own name for the symbols you use. It is actually a good idea. In the field I wrote my thesis, \cong means isomorphism, so using \newcommand\isomorph\cong would make sense in my thesis.
    – daleif
    Sep 22, 2016 at 7:52
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    several others are shortened \sqrt, \pm, \prod(uct), \int(egral) ... so \infty doesn't seem that out of place, but anyway I think the only person who can answer is not a member of the site so this has to be closed as "opinion-based" as no real answer possible. Sep 22, 2016 at 7:56
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    Not an answer to the question but: if you don't like \infty why don't you defy Knuth and make a \newcommand\infnty{\infty}? Sep 22, 2016 at 8:38
  • Actually, removing vowels (except for 1st letter) is a fairly common abbreviation technique, I think, because the brain can fill in vowels naturally when trying to decipher it. If that still isn't short enough, then some additional consonants may also be removed (p.2 of lsbm.ac.uk/assets/pdf/…, and pe.usps.gov/text/pub28/28c3_027.htm). Note: not to be confused with "disemvowling" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disemvoweling) Sep 22, 2016 at 10:10


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