Chad at Uncertain Principles raises the issue of unfortunate names in physics and astronomy. I agree that “strange” and “charm” and “bra” and “ket” are on the cutesy side, but astronomical nomenclature has got to be worse. A fair bit of it is just awkward (for example, in a young star formation region, you’ll often find both molecular hydrogen, which is H2, and ionized hydrogen which is also known as “H-two”, i.e. “HII”, where the II is the roman numeral two). Other terms are historical anachronisms (“planetary nebulae” have nothing to do with planets, but they looked sort of like them through the earliest telescopes). However, to the astronomer teaching large introductory courses (which is most of us), astronomical lingo is downright perilous.
Case in point: The spheroidal distribution of stars in the centers of rotating disk galaxies is called the “bulge”. Now, introduce a bunch of bored and horny 19 year olds into the mix, and you have a dangerous cocktail. One of my colleagues lost complete control of a 250 person lecture class when she had two male students hold up pictures of different galaxies, while she expounded on how “This guy over here has a small bulge, but the bulge of this guy is quite prominent.” The titters started as she forged ahead unknowing, until the entire class collapsed in hysterics. At that point, you just have to put down your laser pointer, send the class home, and head for the bar. Learning is over.
While not quite as extreme, I’ve always been fond of “violent relaxation“, originally coined by Donald Lynden-Bell . The relaxation bit refers to a gravitationally bound system (like a galaxy) coming to its final equilibrium state, and the violent part refers to the fact that this process is not slow and steady, but is usually characterized by rapid changes in the gravitational potential. Broken down like that, it’s not as nuts as you’d initially think, but it’s never going to sound PG.