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JARGON

Originally a French word, meaning “the twittering of the birds” but by the 15 th C. it had come to mean the ”argot of the malfeasants”, the language of thieves, who develop a secret language so that they can twitter in the hearing of outsiders without being understood.  Today we could compare it to Leetspeak slang; an alternative alphabet for the internet used by hackers to conceal their sites from search engines.   

Jargon has also come to describe language that is sectional, a register of science, art, trade, class, sect or profession, full of technical and code words. In English, when people write more to impress than inform, jargon has also come to mean language that is ugly, hard to understand or a pidgin language not understood by the laity. Esoterica refers to things understood by or meant for a select few; recondite matters or items, belonging to the initiate, inner, esoteric.

In English, when people write more to impress than inform, jargon has also come to mean language that is ugly, hard to understand or a pidgin language not understood by the laity.

As the explosion of knowledge and information continues, the English language abounds with the introduction of new and impressive sounding terminology especially in the pseudo - sciences

We do not have to despair at the decay of language because of the proliferation of jargon. Language purifies itself in the same way that the ocean does. Popularised technicality goes in impatient vogues. It has a brief life. As a dead body or decaying matter does not last long in the ocean; so meaningless jargon does not last long in language. However there is some evidence, even the oceans can become over burdened.

There is a lot of jargon around, and it increases everyday. But you do not have to learn it unless you want to. That is the point of jargon.

Acceptable Jargon is used for several reasons;

        *  As a short cut to save time and space in communication

        *  To gain precision of expression

Within your own peer group this is acceptable, however as soon as it is necessary to communicate with the wider public it is essential to revert to Standard language. In recent years official moves towards Plain English have attempted to encourage Lawyers, bureaucrats, doctors, intellectuals and techno-freaks to translate arcane jargon into accessible colloquial prose - plain language.

Chaucer, Sir Ernest Gowers, George Orwell and Don Watson all advocate using plain simple language rather than arcane archaic jargon. 

                  “Eschew obfuscation”

Chaucer decried “heigh style”:

                 “Speketh so pleyn at this time, I yow preye, that we may understone what ye seye.”

Unacceptable Jargon is used

To impress with a pompous use of words; to astound the reader with the importance of the speaker.  This is often cant, a bromide -meaningless drivel or pretentious gibberish for the hoi polloi

Bureaucrats and politicians are renowned for their circumlocution and gobbledygook (also spelled as gobbledegook).

Don Watson calls it:

A perverse, cabalistic, technocratic language can be part of the general folly”.

John Preston maintains jargon, as part of spin, “allows people to do nasty things to each other without having their consciences tweaked”.

He further claims: “it comes from people writing to impress rather than inform”.

Kinds of Jargon include:

Commercialese, journalese, legalese, intellectualese, technolese, bureaucratese, psycho-babble…….

Sociolect - a variety of a language used by a particular social group; a social dialect.

For examples of Acronyms click here.

For examples of Emojis or Emoticons, click here.

Legalese, as many other professions, has a history of being expensive, confusing and time-wasting but difficult to eradicate because it has made a brotherhood of the profession acting as a gatekeeper and allowing them to charge more for their services.

Here are some examples of political gobbledygook:

Rivers flooded - in gobbledygook

Annabel Crabb   July 5, 2008

Finally - a breakthrough. At Thursday's Council of Australian Governments conference here in Sydney - more commonly known as a premiers' conference - the floodgates at last opened, thanks to a landmark agreement between the Commonwealth and state leaders.

Years of blocking tactics, of pinched parochial interest, of parched downriver deprivation gave way, and massive environmental flows of jargon were released.

A great gout of gobbledygook burst forth, flooding through the great river system, bringing life and cheer to its shrunken tributaries and thirsty creeks.

ntergovernmental agreement! A Whole-Of-Basin Plan! Vehicles for long- term reform! Interstate regulatory arrangements! The re-engineering of the Lower Lakes!  ….

…. The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, applied his full bodyweight to the levers, opening the sluices ever wider. "Last time we had a memorandum of understanding which is based on principles," he reminded the stragglers. "We now have an intergovernmental agreement which we have just signed in front of you."

Language like this, which is designed as positive spin or to disguise meaning, is known as gobbledygook – meaningless drivel. It is not the preserve only of bureaucrats and politicians. A doctor might use gobbledygook, heavily dependent on medical terms, to disguise the fact that he really hasn’t a clue what is wrong with his patient; the refrigerator repairman or car mechanic, unable to detect the problem in the machine he has been asked to fix, might resort to gobbledygook and technical jargon to disguise his lack of knowledge, a teacher unsure of how to answer a student’s question might resort to big words to cover their lack of knowledge.

You might use gobbledygook yourself occasionally, as Edna does in Paul Zindel’s Pardon Me, You’re Stepping on MyEyeball when she tells her mother — untruthfully — that she has to go out to do some research at the library:

What kind of research?” her mother asked suspiciously.

Edna tried to invent something as fast as she could.

“I’ve got to check on the synthesis of trimethyichiorene from the dihydroxy benzene after hydrogenation by catalytic combustion.”

Oh,” Mrs Shingleton said.

As the explosion of knowledge and information continues, the English language abounds with the introduction of new and impressive sounding terminology especially in the pseudo - sciences.

Educational Jargon

Sometimes jargon simply stultifies public discourse (sorry about that!)  In real language it puts people to sleep and allows the speaker time to evade the issue long enough for us to forget.  According to Don Watson, managerial language stifles thinking and makes sure no one can think in real terms.  “Schools write reports that leave parents wondering if the outcomes …are outcomes for their children or for the educators”.   

He cites a recent evaluation by the Australian Council for Educational Research:

Direct instruction was having a positive impact on student outcomes, but the researchers were not yet able to tell whether or not the initiative has had any impact on student learning”.

Watson claims this passage has no sensible meaning, there is no movement, no flesh or bone or blood – it is lifeless.

We do not have to despair at the decay of language because of the proliferation of jargon. Language purifies itself in the same way that the ocean does. Popularised technicality goes in impatient vogues. It has a brief life. As a dead body or decaying matter does not last long in the ocean; so meaningless jargon does not last long in language.

There is a lot of jargon around, and it increases everyday. But you do not have to learn it unless you want to. That is the point of jargon.

Some characteristics of journalese are:

  1.  the use of clichés
  2.  quoting the actual words of individuals to give a feeling of realism and an impression of ‘being there’ as it happens
  3.  the use of techniques such as alliteration as, for example, in ‘death-defying’
  4.  undemanding vocabulary
  5.  simple sentence construction
  6.  the inclusion of details that seem to have little to do with the story, but add  ‘interest’
  7.  the creation of words by the use of hyphens, for example, ‘emotion-charged’ instead of ‘charged with emotion’

Journalese intends to communicate without presenting its mass audience with any difficulty or challenge. At its worst it is slick, unimaginative and uninformative. It could be called the ‘junk-food’ of communication.

Journalese is not the only type of writing found in newspapers and magazines. Many use a very high standard of English, but when the stories have to be written in a very short time, usually to meet daily deadlines, and when journalists know that the reading abilities of their audience vary enormously, then the tendency is to write in journalese.

Bureaucratese

In the arcane world of public service, speechwriter, Don Watson, who railed at bureaucratese and jargon but never really grasped why it is so dominant, James Button comes to understand the risk-averse mindset that sees public servants implement rather than do things, to cloak their language in a kind of protective layer that ensures that, no matter what happens, it won’t reflect poorly on a minister.


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