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## N

**N** /N/ /quant./ 1. A large and indeterminate number of
objects: "There were N bugs in that crock!" Also used in
its original sense of a variable name: "This crock has N
bugs, as N goes to infinity." (The true number of bugs is
always at least N + 1; see Lubarsky's Law of Cybernetic
Entomology.) 2. A variable whose value is inherited from the
current context. For example, when a meal is being ordered at a
restaurant, N may be understood to mean however many people
there are at the table. From the remark "We'd like to order
N wonton soups and a family dinner for N - 1" you
can deduce that one person at the table wants to eat only soup,
even though you don't know how many people there are (see
great-wall). 3. `Nth': /adj./ The ordinal counterpart
of N, senses 1 and 2. "Now for the Nth and last
time..." In the specific context "Nth-year grad
student", N is generally assumed to be at least 4, and is
usually 5 or more (see tenured graduate student). See also
random numbers, two-to-the-N.

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