David Carr and AO Scott used to do a series of trenchant videos at the NY Times. They called the series The Sweet Spot. Back on July 19, 2013 the subject was jargon. In the video Scott reads from a Carr tech article: ” “You can’t scale your way out of a paradym shift.” Come again?
David doesn’t try to wiggle out of it. He explains: “In the tech world writers become prisoners of their source base. We want them to think we’re smart.” If you can’t use the jargon of your field of interest, you have no credibility in that field. Jargon can also flip over into the use of euphemisms. As an example a Sweet Spot guest cites Google. When Google decided to send a product called Google Reader down the tubes, they softened the message by saying they were “sunsetting” the product. The term caught on, and is now definitely in the jarg0n of the business world.
In the US Army of today, if you want to talk about anti-personnel mines and artillery shells buried in roads in Afghanistan and Iraq you shorten it down and pretty it up a little by referring to these deadly weapons as IED (Improvised Explosive Devices). In fact military lingo is littered with acronyms that only the “natives” understand. Carr and Scott talk about outsiders using jargon as “going native”. It can be bewildering to the uninitiated. But it’s not all bad. Jargon can be a valuable shortcut to very specific references to the veterans of a field of endeavor.
In the blogging world, you quickly learn to talk in terms of “landing pages”, “posts”, “widgets”, “plugins”, and “Sharing”. It’s part of earning your chops.
What do you think about jargon? Should we do away with it?
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