April 2011 Past Issues | Advertise | www.cia-ica.ca
Return to main page

Words to the Wise

Print Print this Article | Send to Colleague

As anybody who has had anything to do with actuarial science will know, it is a profession full of technical terms. To the outsider, listening to a conversation between two or more actuaries can be a bewildering experience thanks to such terms as accumulation factor with benefit of survival, DCAT, implicit crash value, long-tail liability and many more. Perfectly logical to those in the profession, they can mean little to those not in the know.

So it is no surprise that occasionally non-actuaries make errors when attempting to transcribe such terminology. Several such mistakes were uncovered by retired actuary Mark Campbell, who recently posted the following to the CIA’s General Listserver:

I have had occasion to review raw transcripts, freshly produced before editing, of a court case involving actuarial matters. The court recorder used a stenotype device with keys, somewhat similar to a typewriter. However, the keys do not cover the whole alphabet and are pressed in various combinations to represent phonetic sounds. The device then compares the results to a glossary and selects the word that seems closest. The initial results can be well off the mark and so the court recorder edits the raw transcripts later to clean up any problems and to improve the glossary (e.g., by adding new words unique to the actuarial field).

In reviewing the raw transcripts, I came across some amusing misunderstandings of actuarial terminology. Though they didn’t all occur in one long sentence, I have concatenated them below for your reading pleasure.

What the court recorder produced What was actually said
Members of the acupuncture aerial profession Members of the actuarial profession
use a criminal ball use a crystal ball
and make arthritic calculations and make arithmetic calculations
to determine unfounded liabilities to determine unfunded liabilities
and numb sum values and lump sum values
in order to give accurate rarely evidence in order to give actuarial evidence
Of course, you have to remove the out liars Of course, you have to remove the outliers

To join the General Listserver, go to the CIA Members Site >> Toolkit >> Update List Subscriptions (make sure you have logged in). Then click on Show list subscriptions, followed by the relevant button.


360 Albert Street, Suite 1740, Ottawa, ON K1R 7X7
Tel.: 613.236.8196 Fax: 613.233.4552