Polytomous

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Remember this word? I mentioned in class that some people think the word should be "polychotomous" and I thought this was wrong. I probably also mentioned that a recent American Statistician paper used the non-word in its title. In June I wrote to the editor as follows:
The paper by White and Berry (p. 10 of the February 2002 issue) is entitled "Tiered polychotomous regression . . .". It's unfortunate that the term "polychotomous" sometimes creeps into papers and books. The correct term is "polytomous".

For authority, I would refer to the entry in volume 7 of the Encyclopedia of statistical sciences (Kotz & Johnson). Or, ". . . in terms of polytomized tables, i.e., tables with two or more categories in the row and column classifications" [Kendall & Stuart, The Advanced Theory of Statistics, 4th edition, volume 2, p. 575, 1979].

I believe people get the idea that "polychotomous" is the correct term in analogy to "dichotomous", assuming that "di" = 2 and "poly" = more than 2. However, the Greek word or root for two is "dicho", not "di", so we have "dicho-tomous" and "poly-tomous".

I hope that in future the term "polychotomous" can be weeded out of the literature!

Thank you.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from the editor, Lynne Stokes, which said:
Thank you for your letter about the non-word "polychotomous". I'll ask [my assistant] to send your comment along to our technical editor also.
Mike Georghiou should especially appreciate this!

Paul

-- Anonymous, July 27, 2002

Answers

I certainly appreciate this clarification. I remember when you brought this issue up in one of our meetings. It just did not sound right to you the word polychotomous used as a synonym of the word polytomous, and since you used the word polytomous in your text book, you had the confidence to reason that you are right (polytomous) and they are wrong (polychotomous).

I was very surprised when I saw the editorís response. It seems to me that they well-accepted your comment. I thought that it would take more that just a comment to make them admit their mistake especially when the same word (polychotomous) has been used in other published papers.

Mike Georghiou

-- Anonymous, July 27, 2002


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