Jargon

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JARGON. An often pejorative general term for outlandish language of various kinds, such as speech perceived as gibberish or mumbo jumbo, SLANG, a PIDGIN language, or, most commonly, the specialized language of a trade, profession, or other group (REGISTER). The term is often associated with law, medicine, and the sciences: technical jargon, scientific jargon. To non-members of professional, occupational, and other groups, their usage is filled with terms and syntax that are not typical of GENERAL ENGLISH and may therefore impede understanding among lay people, but to members of such a group, the usage is familiar and generally serves its purpose well. Because of ease and familiarity, however, they may use technical expressions and styles outside the group, either unthinkingly, because it seems best fitted for the topic in question, or on occasion to impress and even oppress.

Jargon as verbal shorthand

For those who understand it, jargon is a kind of SHORTHAND that makes long explanations unnecessary. When used by the members of a profession or group, it can be an efficient and effective language. For physicians, the surgical removal of a gall bladder is a chole-cystectomy. For lawyers, an involuntary conversion is loss or destruction of property through theft, accident, or condemnation. Studies of surgeons have found that the jargon used during surgery improves the communication of factual information with brevity and clarity. Comparably, computer science has evolved a jargon which communicates technical ideas among members of the group, including such expressions as dynamic random access memory, read only memory, core dump, and cache buffer.

Jargon as group identification

Ability to understand and use the jargon of a group is a badge of identification: one belongs, and those who cannot use the jargon of the group do not, even if they possess other skills necessary for membership. In a sense, the ability to use the jargon indicates that the user is conforming to the norms of the group, as well as accepting and understanding the basic ideas, principles, and practices of the group. In addition, using jargon can lend an air of authority and prestige to those who use it, especially if the jargon is associated with a profession that enjoys a high social position.

The temptations of jargon

While jargon has a legitimate function, it is probably more known for its ABUSE by people who use it to confuse, confound, needlessly complicate subject matter, and lend an air of importance and sophistication to their message and themselves. Jargon allows a speaker to make fairly simple ideas appear complicated, if not profound. It may sound more impressive to write that ‘The argillaceous character of the formation is very prominent in some localities, although it is usually subsidiary to the arenaceous phase’, rather than ‘At some places the formation includes considerable clay, but generally it is made up chiefly of sand.’ By and large, when people use jargon not to communicate but to impress, or use it to announce membership in a group, communication suffers.

See ACADEMIC USAGE, ARGOT, AUREATE DICTION, BAFFLEGAB, BUREAUCRATESE, CANT, CIRCUMLOCUTION, COMPUTERESE, CONFUSAGE, DOUBLESPEAK, DOUBLE TALK, EUPHEMISM, GOBBLEDYGOOK, INFLATED LANGUAGE, INKHORN TERM, JOURNALESE, LEGALESE, LEGAL USAGE, OFFICIALESE, PATOIS, PERIPHRASIS, PLAIN ENGLISH, PLEONASM, PRIVATE LANGUAGE, PSYCHOBABBLE, REDUNDANCY, SOCIOLOGESE, -SPEAK, TAUTOLOGY, TECHNOBABBLE, TRADE JARGON.

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jar·gon1 / ˈjärgən/ • n. special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand: legal jargon. ∎  a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid. DERIVATIVES: jar·gon·is·tic / ˌjärgəˈnistik/ adj.jar·gon·ize / -ˌnīz/ v.jar·gon2 / ˈjärgän/ (also jar·goon / järˈgoōn/ ) • n. a translucent, colorless, or smoky gem variety of zircon.

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jargon •deafen •griffon, stiffen •antiphon •hyphen, siphon •often, soften •orphan • ibuprofen •roughen, toughen •colophon •dragon, flagon, lagan, pendragon, wagon •snapdragon • bandwagon • jargon •Megan •Copenhagen, pagan, Reagan •Nijmegen •Antiguan, Egan, Keegan, Regan, vegan •Wigan • cardigan • Milligan • polygon •hooligan • mulligan • ptarmigan •Branigan • Oregon • Michigan •Rattigan •tigon, trigon •toboggan •Glamorgan, gorgon, Morgan, morgen, organ •Brogan, hogan, Logan, slogan •Cadogan • decagon •Aragon, paragon, tarragon •hexagon • pentagon • heptagon •octagon • Bergen • Spitsbergen

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jargon special words or expressions used by a particular profession or group that are difficult for others to understand. The word is recorded from late Middle English, originally in the sense ‘twittering, chattering’, later ‘gibbering’ (from Old French, of unknown origin). The modern sense dates from the mid 17th century.

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jargon †twittering or chattering of birds XIV; meaningless talk XIV; debased or hybrid language; speech peculiar to a trade or profession XVII. — OF. jargoun, gergon, gargon; ult. orig. unkn.

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