Meaningful terms

I like this post on regression linear models by Drew Thomas. Drew argues that casual use of the term “regression” doesn’t adequately describe linear modeling:

“Regression” literally means “the act of going back.” If we accept this definition in this context, we have to have something to which we can return. Clearly, this implies discovering the mean – but chronologically, it can only mean discovering the cause, that which came before.

Linear modelling makes no explicit assumptions about cause and effect, a major source of headache in our discipline, but the word itself, consciously or otherwise, binds us to this fact.

It also grates on his sensibilities to hear “regress” used as a verb. “We regressed bar on foo” has always seemed like an awkward phrasing to me, as well. Drew acknowledges that changing terminology is a tough business, but the call to be more precise in the language of our methodologies and models is one that I can get behind.