Friday, November 23, 2012


Jargon bothers me. 

What is your DNS server setting?  I didn’t even know I had a DNS server, much less settings for it.

Your lipid panel test is on the high side.  What is the lipid panel?  I am getting livid now.

You business insurance policy doesn’t cover POV.  Did they mean point of view, I doubt it.  POV?

Nor does your policy cover dual occurrence losses.  I thought dual occurrence loss would be paid twice, but the truth is if one cause is not covered then you receive zero, zilch, zip, nothing, nada compensation.

I sometimes overhear conversations from my co-workers to clients and think I am in an alternate universe.  Carbides, agglomerate, gamma-prime, or fin-fan tubes are words that waif from their mouths over the phone to some unknown person.  I must admit they are engineers and I am not.
Of course, the speakers know what they are saying and presumably the listener does also.  But often understanding is not a two-sided event. 

I’ve been known to stop a conversation with a computer help desk person or medical professional and ask for clarification of what was said.  On occasion I have informed the speaker at the outset that I prefer plain English to jargon, abbreviations, buzzwords, and lingo that is unique to their specialty.

Insidiously, jargon is drifting into all areas of daily life.  “Outside readings” is replacing old-fashioned book reports in school.  “Upside” has replaced benefit. The phrase “Buy in” means to agree with not purchase.  Specialized language is often necessary to communicate specialized knowledge accurately, to relay complex concepts in a single or small number of words to facilitate understanding.  We live in a highly technical world and jargon is important to relay information between two or more knowledgeable people.

My beef is when jargon is used to confuse the listener, delay action, or hide facts for the benefit of the speaker.  Have you read your insurance policy, contract with the telephone company or TV cable provider?  Most of us would get a headache trying to decipher the meaning or give up half-way through the first few pages.

Many speakers of jargon spent years in school and use jargon to impress others with their knowledge of the subject.  I don’t want to hear “negative outcome” from a doctor (the patient died) or my financial advisor tell me, “We’ve had a market correction” (you’ve lost 10% of your portfolio).

Sometimes jargon is reduced to abbreviations. 

Have you experienced a RIF? Fired! 
Do you have a good CD?  Music or bank account?
BM.  Body mass or bowel movement?
CAD.  Coronary artery disease or computer assisted drawing?
HUD.  Is this a government agency or the title of an old movie?
I’d rather get a letter from SSA than SSS. (I am old enough for SSA, and too old for SSS).

There was a cell phone commercial that made famous the phrase, “Can you hear me now?”  I would prefer the phrase, “Can you understand me now?”

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1 comment:

  1. Jargon and abbreviations are for me, like a red rag to a bull.

    I did have reason to read my home insurance policy last week, before I phoned the company to report some water damage.

    I sent photographs and estimates for work and replacements. Now I am waiting with fingers crossed for a speedy reply.