Caught in the jargon PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 November 2011 14:31


We communicate most efficiently when we express our ideas or feelings, orally or in writing, with the use of words. Even then we have to remember  that the meaning a word will convey will depend to a great deal on the context in which the word is used,  or the nuance that we wish to convey with the use of the particular word.

Our choice of words is generally a part of our personality or our value orientation. This is especially true when we communicate our ideas about topics about which we feel strongly.  When we use a language which is not our mother tongue variables like how proficient we are in the language, or our vocabulary in that language, also  influence the words we choose to express our ideas. For instance the media often use the word “czar” to refer to someone newly appointed to a position as, say,  the “new environment czar”.  When we bother to check the background of the word “czar” we realize that the connotation, the nuance,  of the word is not all that positive.

People who work in a specific field of activity also have at their command  words that are common phrases in the field, phrases that other workers in the same field understand immediately. Such words or phrases normally are referred to as jargon.

Military people use a language or a vocabulary which is very commonly used among the members of the military establishment. Doctors and nurses have their  particular jargon too. What happens usually is that the jargon of one field eventually gets into the common usage of people in other fields. It is quite unsettling for instance when someone who is a serious advocate of peace begins to pepper his talk with a phrase like “terms of engagement” which has a military orientation. Or someone who is not a doctor and who is not talking about medical  response  to a big disaster uses the term  “triage” in describing about making a decision  in a situation with a tight time frame.

For instance the phrase “sustainable development” is very commonly used among  NGO folks. It is bandied around by speakers in seminars and forums and we presume that all who hear the phrase understand it in the same way. Perhaps they do – but does anyone really bother to check if  the presumption is really correct?

A phrase that I have come across recently a number of times  is “spoilers of peace”. I think I know what it means but I am not sure that my interpretation is what the users of the phrase intend it to be interpreted.

When I use jargon or perhaps even just phrases that have a certain ring to them I might make those I am communicating with think that I am profound. Perhaps. But am I understood?  The first test of successful communication is that the person I am communicating with understands my words in the way that I intend.  The impression I create in my listeners or readers of being profound  is just so much sugar coating.