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On Language: Quants

The big quant boom began in the mid-’80s, when investment firms started attracting venerable names like Emanuel Derman, a South African-born physicist described by Patterson as an “überquant,” who eventually became a managing director at Goldman Sachs. When I asked Derman recently about his early years in finance, he said that at first he felt that quant, like rocket scientist before it, was largely a derogatory put-down for the brainy newcomers, many of them foreign-born: “two-thirds pejorative, one-third grudging praise,” by his calculation. Another popular epithet from the era was quant jock, on the model of other eggheaded jock compounds like math jock or computer jock.…

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