Speaking in tongues

Every once in a while, back when I was media specialist at East Coweta High School, I would peruse a copy of Popular Mechanics or Car & Rider just to see if they were still written in code. They always were.

I got the same feeling during curling during the Olympics, and again this afternoon at an airport bar where they had a golf tournament on closed captioning. The sentence was:

“The question now is whether he has to lag it or cozy it down.”

I mean to say, wot? (Of course, all sports talk sounds like this to me.)

Yes, I know, it could very well be bad lip reading on the part of the automated CC’er. (For giggles sometime, go to YouTube and turn on closed captioning.) But somehow I don’t think it is. I think it’s plain old jargonitis, the curse of insiders and specialists everywhere.

They think they are speaking to fellow aficionados, and as long they’re sure about that audience I have no problem with it. But if there’s even the slightest chance that some of the people listening to you are not part of your club, and it is part of your mission to make them a part of your club, THOU SHALT NOT SPEAK IN JARGON.

I am saying this not as a complaint about CBS’s sportscasters—because as far as I’m concerned they are correct in ignoring me as a viewer—but as a warning to my fellow educators. Do not ask your students to fleem the gnargles or to adjust the gobo on the miniPAR or click on the widget in the navbar without double–checking your own assumptions about what those words mean. If there’s any chance that your audience’s eyes might glaze over, stop it..

Just stop it. Stop talking to the boys in the club. Start teaching instead.

3 thoughts on “Speaking in tongues

  1. And where do you draw the line between the specific vocabulary of a subject and simply an educated vocabulary? If I refer to metonymy in my AP Literature class without explaining it, does that count as “jargon?” What about if I use the term “metonymy” in a bar or general conversation? Acceptable?

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