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December 5, 2005

In Defense of Jargon

Jargon and its ills has been a hot topic of conversation lately, for a variety of reasons, and I feel the need to speak up in defense of jargon. Not the kind of pointless business consultant speak where you replace one word with another meaning exactly the same thing but using 6 times as many letters - that's just annoying - but rather, the kind of specialized language that allows us to communicate quickly and accurately with those of common experience.

Let's take a couple of examples out of some very different aspects of my life:

The greenie booched carp, so the Imps maxed us and took our booty.

Nuke the cooties on Outer and post a phone home for the user.

ASCA requires that all sev 2s are resolved prior to the end of UAT.

All relatively short sentences, all relatively opaque to people who don't participate in those worlds.

The first comes from an online game, and translates roughly as:

The inexperienced player failed at the carpentry puzzle, so the particularly difficult enemies were able to cause us the maximum amount of damage allowed in the game, and then win the swordfight, taking a share of the in-game currency that was aboard our ship.

The second is from a website I help out with and translates as:

Delete the post about someone finding bugs in their food on the Outer Boroughs board, and then post a message asking the user who posted it to please email us so we can explain why we had to delete the post.

The third is from work, and it maps out as:

Our internal business controls rules for application processing say that all problems which affect a significant sub-path of a changing system must be fixed and retested or determined to be working as designed prior to the end of the end user's business process testing and application testing or the application can't be released into the active environment used to run our business.

Making these same points without the jargon inherent to any sub-group is tedious and slow, at best. At worst, it loses the shades of nuance that are built into the words.

Take for example, something like 'resolved'. It has a very specific meaning when used in relation to software testing problems. It could be easily translated as 'fixed', but that would lose the full sense of the word - which recognizees the possibility that the problem that was raised was not, in fact, a problem at all. The word 'greenie' in the first example also has subtle shadings to it. 'New player' doesn't resolve the amibiguity. 'New guy in the crew'? 'Most recent person to join this particular trip'? 'New player to the game as a whole'? It means the latter, but could easily refer to either of the former.

Using Jargon inappropriately *is* annoying. If you're in a mixed audience setting, whether it's talking shop over dinner or presenting to an audience of both developers and clients, you have to be conscious of your use of jargon, and ensure you bring the level of jargon down to one that everyone present can understand. But attempting to eliminate jargon from your vocabulary entirely is a waste of time - a waste of your time, a waste of the time of the people who have to read lengthy explanations of things they already know, a waste of the time of the people who have to fix mistakes made because those lengthy explanations were imprecise.

About December 2005

This page contains all entries posted to acho que não in December 2005. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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