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jargon A common rhetorical maneuver at MIT is to use any

of the canonical random numbers as placeholders for

variables. "The max function takes 42 arguments, for

arbitrary values of 42". "There are 69 ways to leave your

lover, for 69 = 50". This is especially likely when the

speaker has uttered a random number and realises that it was

not recognised as such, but even "non-random" numbers are

occasionally used in this fashion. A related joke is that pi

equals 3 - for small values of pi and large values of 3.

This usage probably derives from the programming language MAD

(Michigan Algorithm Decoder), an ALGOL-like language that

was the most common choice among mainstream (non-hacker) users

at MIT in the mid-1960s. It had a control structure FOR

VALUES OF X = 3, 7, 99 DO ... that would repeat the indicated

instructions for each value in the list (unlike the usual FOR

that generates an arithmetic sequence of values). MAD is

long extinct, but similar for-constructs still flourish