I previously lamented that we are stuck with many roughly equivalent ways to say technical terms/phrases. Then I proposed over 88 ways to talk about O(n²) in computer science with voting buttons for "sounds good", "sounds ok", and "sounds wrong/confusing."
After 13k votes, mostly from /r/programming readers, here are the results.
There were four almost equally most popular terms, with plenty of people prefering one over the others.
- "big oh of n squared"
- "order [of] n squared"
- "complexity of n squared"
- "quadratic time"
Removal of "of" was slightly less popular (except for "order" which was basically equal). Other variations of the four were a bit less popular still.
As I noted, opinions were split, with ~55% "sounds good", ~25% "sounds ok", and ~20% "sounds wrong or confusing" for each. For people who liked one of these four, they also had a preference for its minor variations, but felt average for the other three.
"big oh of n squared" did have an edge, which I think is at least partially due to the fact that I used O(n²) when writing about the topic. In a proper experiment, I would have interviewed people verbally and used a random term to introduce the topic.
There weren't any words that stood out as universally disliked, although a few awkward combinations rounded the bottom with 60% "sounds wrong or confusing." I would recommend using one of the above, or a variation, which is still about 20 options.
That is the high level overview. If you want to see all the words and their vote percentages, they are here.
Natural language sure can complicate things. Looking at data can give us some insights though. I wonder how preferences will change in 5 or 10 years.