Post No.: 0072
The main point of language is to communicate, so if someone fully and properly understands what’s been said, regardless of the vocabulary used, then one has achieved one’s aim. Accordingly, if one uses unexplained technical jargon to a non-technical audience when things could be almost as efficiently said in simpler terms (usually because one wants to sound clever to the audience but is not clever enough to understand that the audience may not understand them) then one has failed in the art of communication.
Jargon often has uses for efficiency though (it’s like it’s more efficient to say ‘fridge’ instead of ‘a box that keeps things cold’) but it’s unnecessary when there are already efficient words or phrases to describe something or when they make something sound even more longwinded or confusing (e.g. ‘stare decisis’ instead of ‘precedent’, ‘prophylactic’ instead of ‘preventative’). Then again, all kinds of groups use what could be deemed as jargon – including virtually every young generation and the new phrases they come up with that older generations must get to learn! And buzzwords and acronyms do apparently persuade a lot of people in certain contexts, such as in corporate circles or marketing.
Jargon is often designed to be intentionally opaque to anyone not from an ingroup, thus exploiting the advantage of ‘information asymmetries’ i.e. ‘I know something that you don’t’, which in a commercial context could translate to ‘I’ll make this easy task sound difficult so that it’ll look like only I can do it, and also so that I can charge you more for the service’ or ‘I’ll make this thing seem more exotic than it really is, and so again I can charge you more for it’! (This is one reason why the legal profession, financial sector, medical profession and so forth are full of opaque jargon to those not in the relevant ingroup.) Sometimes jargon is created as code words so that outgroups don’t immediately understand what’s being said (e.g. street gangs versus the authorities). But if one’s intention is to be understood by others then one’s intended audience must properly understand whatever words and phrases are used, or at least have them explained.
But languages naturally evolve anyway, like most, if not all, cultural memes, so it’s not about trying to maintain a particular fixed dictionary of words – it’s about keeping up with the changes. We don’t speak today like people did in the 16th century, for example, so why expect future generations to speak like we do now? As old words go out of fashion, there’ll be new words, even emojis, emoticons or other symbols or sounds – a tacitly agreed convention of a specific time and possibly specific place and demographic. (And of course emojis and emoticons are hardly the first ideographic, pictographic or hieroglyphic languages ever invented in the world.) Who knows? Phrases like ‘escape goat’, ‘from the gecko’, ‘the bear of bad news’, ‘damp squid’, ‘like a bowl in a china shop’, ‘it takes two to tangle’, ‘curled up in a faecal position’, ‘a cock and ball story’, ‘it’s a doggy dog world’ and other ‘catphrases’ might one day catch on?! Woof!
So it is indeed indicative of one’s own age or generation if or when one complains that ‘kids of today don’t speak properly anymore’! Your language has moved forwards and evolved but you have fallen behind. Then again, it’s not generally considered cool for older generations to speak like younger generations do. D’you know what I’m sayin’ fam? (Ahem.)
A common language, a lingua franca, is important for unity and peace though. For example, I wish I could speak to spiders to tell them that I don’t want to hurt them but they are in my fuzzy way so please move – I cannot speak their language and they cannot understand mine so I resort to scaring them away. And indeed, speaking more s-l-o-w-l-y or LOUDLY makes no difference(!)
With the multitude of technical subjects I’ve posted about, I’ve tried my best to avoid any jargon that is not explained immediately afterwards or hasn’t been covered in a previous post already (unless it’s not too important in order to comprehend the main points of a paragraph), yet hopefully without going too far the other way and sounding patronising – it’s a difficult balancing act when my intended target audience is quite broad. I also have my own furry style of writing, borne from compiling tons of notes from the many courses I’ve studied and from some of the more interesting things I’ve picked up elsewhere and only originally intended for my own revision. Well I think the good thing about reading is that you can always pause whenever you want to research any terms you don’t understand. One can always search online for anything one doesn’t quite understand. Make no mistake that it has taken me many, many years trying to learn about all these subjects myself, and I’m still very much learning them as I share what I’ve learnt so far with you. This blog is an attempt at condensing many years of effort down into something shorter, which is an effort in itself.
Woof. Please help make the phrase ‘the best things in life are furry’ catch on!