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Deepdive into Overused Jargon #HackEnglish

by Paul CreechWednesday, May 18, 2016

Jargon are those words or phrases used by a specialized profession or industry. When jargon is bad, its a kind of professional slang. Jargon can signal to others within our group that we are one of them by showing our mastery of the common language. It has an otherizing effect to those who do not immediately understand the terms. In law we have phrases that have developed specialized meaning over the years. We call these terms of art, meaning the words have a special, specific meaning developed through the procession of court decisions, not to be confused with the common or dictionary meaning.

Jargon can be trendy,  employed to show that our vocabulary game is fleek. The wide adoption of trendy jargon, particularly by authority figures, can signal that the fade has passed and the jargon is no longer cool, just as the Macarena bent to its death knell at the 1996 Democratic National Convention. Sometimes a generation will think they are introducing new jargon when they are recycling the past. I witnessed my young, beautiful wife review a new product as on point. Her teenage little brother chastised her, “Don’t try to use slang, you’re too old for that.” Their father was walking by, “I use on point all the time. I have for years, negotiating contracts.”

Often jargon does not add new meaning, but can deteriorate the specific meaning the jargon once held. Hack is good example. It used to be that to hack email required a guy in a van with a headset taping on three keyboards and pounding Redbulls. Now, we hack email when we use advanced built-in features to optimize its organization. Instead of seeking self improvement we hack life by learning to correctly cut a pizza into square slices for a party, eating fruits for health benefits, and using a fitted sheet as a beach blanket to keep the sand off our stuff.

When we open the kimono we find that jargon is often a crutch that fails to move the needle, signaling that a person isn’t an out of the box thinker. Instead, we should leverage the English language to communicate clearly and concisely. Instead of getting lost in jargon, professionals should concentrate on drilling down on their core competencies. English’s great strength is its robust trove of words that we can use to take it to the next level. Next time you’re out of pocket, take advantage of that window of opportunity to grab the low-hanging fruit: identify the jargon that has crept into your vocabulary. Take a look at yourself and peel the onion to uncover those professional and personal insecurities that get covered with the jargon band aid.

I challenge you to disrupt the conventional wisdom and pivot from meaningless jargon and sink your teeth into the rich velvety cornucopia of tired pop culture references. Bye, Felica.

Paul Creech
Paul Creech is an attorney living in Houston, Texas. Paul has baccalaureate degrees in philosophy and political science from Utah State University, and a juris doctorate degree from Houston College of Law. He is a former U.S. Marine. Besides the law, Paul's interests include sports, art, and food.