On Jargon

I was reading somewhere about how men talk about money as sport, which is why they use terms like “Price / Earnings Ratio,” which the article termed “jargon.” The article went on to suggest that it was the use of such jargon that accounted for women’s disinterest in discussions about money.

Maybe people (both men and women!) use terms like “Price/Earnings Ratio” because no other phrase captures the meaning. In fact, both “price” and “earnings” in that sentence have complex definitions that refer to other compound concepts.

In other words, a good reason to speak in “jargon” is because it offers shorter terms with more precise shades of meaning than “regular” language allows. The idea that experts have amassed a vocabulary for the sole purpose of excluding others speaks either to a feeling of insecurity on the part of those who have this idea, or a notion that there can be no more precise thoughts or meanings in that entire field of endeavor than they already understand. In other words, they must believe that there’s no content to the field.

One couldn’t talk about mood using only the words “happy” and “sad.” We need a larger vocabulary to accomodate important concepts: “frustrated” means something different from “irritated,” “amused” isn’t the same as “schadenfreude,” and so on. We don’t consider this jargon because we assume normal people understand these shades of meaning. For someone less attuned to others’ moods (eg, someone with Asperger’s), these words could be construed as jargon.