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6 Jul 2016 . 6 min read

Dancing The Jargon Jig: Let Us ‘Drill This Down’


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So, I will be talking about jargon.

So, we begin all sentences with ‘so’ these days. Even if it has nothing to do with cause and effect. Or maybe it’s truly subtle Buddhism, implying that nothing CAN happen without cause? Or are they just ‘sheeping it’, doing it because others do?

Consider, for instance, the phraseology of the corporate world. It has ‘betamaxed’ the Queen’s language. Google throws up 60,60,000 results for ‘corporate jargon’ with the words ‘annoying’, ‘you need to stop using’, ‘ridiculous’, ‘worst’, ‘unsuck’ and ‘jargon fixes’ figuring among the first ten. Kind’a tells us what people really think of jargon and that, in despair, they turn to Google when someone writes them a mail, full of jargon, and they have to ‘drill down’ in order to understand what exactly has been said.

Recently, someone I was communicating with via mail asked for my coordinates; my mind began grappling with its coordinates. The school Math lesson (and the rather severe teacher) came to mind, as did a picture of the X-axis and Y-axis.  Any point in this graph had to have two coordinates, one X and one Y. That decided the location of the point.

So this person, asking for my coordinates, wanted my address, I deduced brilliantly; and as it happened, inaccurately. Good sense prevailed and I turned to a friend who is HR manager at a reputed firm (are these called something else, these days?).

“Idiot, he wants your telephone number,” she decoded, mildly shocked at my ignorance.

“Well, he could have asked for my number!!”

One was given to understand that communication meant getting the point across. The intention was to clarify, not confuse. One double-checked with a dictionary and scrupulously used the word or phrase that was nuanced to one’s intent. One understood that communication was a three-legged stool resting on Accuracy, Brevity and Clarity. One sought, through grammar and appropriate vocabulary, to achieve this. One, however, cannot ignore the fact that language is a dynamic creature and will change with time.

The ‘wyfe’ of yore is now ‘wife’ and no one demurs, because no one who used ‘wyfe’ is alive today. As the printed word got increasingly democratized, it also was ‘dumbed down’ (that’s ‘simplified’ in regular English) for ease of spelling, pronunciation and for better understanding. That is the ‘bottom-line’ – Understanding.  

Jargon, by its very definition--‘special words or expressions used by a profession or group that are difficult for others to understand’--obfuscates, and impedes understanding. Interestingly, it originally meant barbarous or debased language. So much for those who preen and pride themselves on their use of Double Dutch!

How can I touch base, offline with someone when I am not playing baseball? I can, though, meet them for coffee. Over coffee, I would prefer to save my breath (and your time) and say ‘now’ instead of ‘at this point in time’. I may not ‘have the bandwidth’ for your ideas, but I would certainly have the time for you and the capacity to understand what you mean. There are many ‘touch points’ (OUCH!), points of contact--…so say just that, and be done! We can meet, discuss, put our heads together or do some joined up thinking; consider a fresh approach or think out of the box or do some blue sky thinking, so you may get a bigger bang for your buckjust means profit, nothing else.

I was told by someone in the know that business contracts are being drawn up in German; German being preferred for its precision of meaning, its clarity. Meanwhile, we convolute our speech to mean pretty much nothing. On the other hand, ambiguous as some jargon is, it does give the regular users a sense of belonging to a community. Perhaps, once the non-regular users of the jargon die away (ok, I’m kidding, but there will be a greater number of newer users eventually), jargon might become an established new artificial language, like Esperanto.

To sum it up, there’s no escape. Language will change and it would be unwise to resist this. However, use jargon selectively, and NEVER at the cost of actual comprehension and communication.

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