Excuse Your Jargon

17 Sep

Jargon (def) (noun):
1. A technical terminology unique to a particular subject.
2. Speech or language that is incomprehensible or unintelligible; gibberish.

Today I’d like to dialogue with you about the utilisation moving forward with the shifting paradigm towards advanced linguistic features.

If you understood a word of what I typed just then, you may be an idiot.

Possibly however, you are a very intelligent individual who has come across the use of jargon and complex language far too often. This could be anywhere; the workplace, on the television, in the newspaper, or on an Internet forum.

Now just to ensure that there are no misunderstandings between myself and my readership, (possibly 3 people) I would like to state that yes, jargon does have its place.

When discussing technical, social or political issues, they are appropriate in the right context. However, let’s not forget that this should really be the only place that complicated and specific language exists.

In everyday conversations, even in a casual discussion in the workplace, should jargon such as management speak and vague technical terminologies be used with those who are unfamiliar with the lingo?

I’ve seen it happen all too often. In various workplaces I’ve seen those bully-types who like to use language as a power tool; discussing concepts and using language that will go over other people’s heads but will elevate the using individual to the status of a god.

Well, not really the god part, but you get my point.

This is not something that is new, however. Language has been used as an imperialistic tool for a few thousand years now. We begin by looking at the major base languages of Western Europe: Latin and Greek.

Many of the words used in modern day English and other western languages are derived from these two languages. Throw in a bit of Saxon as well and you have English.

But how did Greek and Latin become such major languages over the continent?

Cultural imperialism.

The Greeks did it, the Romans did it, the French did it and the British did it. Now the Americans are doing it as well with their version of the English language that is increasingly becoming a dialect all of its own.

People will wield language as power forever, it’s only a fact of human nature. The minute we began to communicate with verbal language it has been this way and it always will be.

However, it is those very people that use jargon out of context and in the wrong way that are destroying language. As a way to appear more intelligent and superior than their peers, there are far too many cases of confusion appearing, especially in the workplace.

A large impact on my life has been the work of Scott Adams, creator of the ‘Dilbert’ comic strips and the author of a number of fabulous books on workplace issues. Adams has always been opposed to the use of heavy jargon, or management speak in the workplace. As we can see with this strip:


Basically, Adams view is that jargon is a cover-up for those that have no skills or worth in their workplace: middle management.

Now Adams view may be a little simplistic, however this is only for comedic value, since there are many middle-management types who I have come across so far in my life that are very qualified for their position, almost over-qualified.

However, Adams has hit the nail on the head with his point that jargon is a confusing cover-up for those who either want to wield power that they don’t have in other areas, or those that need to cover up their lack of qualification.

As a teacher, I am as careful as I can be when talking with my students in the classroom. When explaining new concepts that they may or may have not heard before, I try to use quite simple language. This is difficult for me though and I’ll tell you why.

A lot of the material that I enjoy using in the classroom comes from textbooks that I bought when I was doing my undergrad a few years ago. A lot of these texts on Media, Journalism and even Politics are aimed at university level students, so therefore, they are full of jargon. Now thankfully, after 3 years of uni by brain finally decided to switch on at some point and I began to understand everything within those texts.

Yet, the topics in the books require translation. This is harder than it sounds; taking loaded jargon, and turning them into simple words.

After 3 years now, I’m finally getting a good hang of it. Perhaps it’s time to begin using high-school text books, which I have started to bring to my lesson-planning a lot more recently.

However, I really enjoy the high-end stuff that is in my university texts, a number of them were written by my lecturers and I find them useful.

This has helped me to realise something very important which as changed the way I teach all of a sudden:

You can teach the really high-end concepts if you just use simple language!

It’s that…. simple.

There’s nothing to it, I can even go through all the course of study documents that my students are supposed to receive at the beginning of the year and translate them for my classes. This means a higher understanding for my students, so they can cut through all the crap and know exactly what they will be learning and what skills they will develop over the year.

So goodbye jargon, I don’t like you. You have your place, yet I am trying to assist teenagers to develop life and social skills while at the same time discovering some fantastic concepts so that one day they may help change the world for the better. I don’t need you.


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