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Title: Jargon  
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Collection: Jargon, Language Varieties and Styles, Terminology
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Jargon, technical terminology, or term of art,[1] is "the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group."[2] An industry term is a type of technical terminology that has a particular meaning within a specific industry.

More simply put, jargon is a term, similar to the English word slang, used to describe a specific set of words that can be attributed to a certain group or subculture. The words or set of words is significantly removed from the proper or formal language spoken in that area.[3]

It is commonplace for each generation to create their own "jargon" words. Whether this is because they want to identify with each other and thus create a language of their own, or if they deliberately do not want to be understood by anybody else. An example of this is the texting slang that the specific generation has created. If one is not briefed in this new vocabulary, he would have no idea what is being communicated via text slang.[4] Some words and phrases, however, become part of the a language naturally through time. An example of this would be the word "ginormous" being added to Webster's English Dictionary in 2013.[3]

The philosopher Étienne Bonnot de Condillac observed in 1782 that "every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas." As a rationalist member of the Enlightenment he continued, "It seems that one ought to begin by composing this language, but people begin by speaking and writing, and the language remains to be composed."[5] Within each field, terms have one or more specific meanings that are not necessarily the same as those in common use. In earlier times, the term jargon would refer to trade languages used by people who spoke different native tongues to communicate, such as the Chinook Jargon.

In other words, the term covers the language used by people who work in a particular area or who have a common interest. Much like slang,[6] it can develop as a kind of shorthand, to express ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group, though it can also be developed deliberately using chosen terms. A standard term may be given a more precise or unique usage among practitioners of a field. In many cases this causes a barrier to communication with those not familiar with the language of the field. In this way, jargon can be argot and can provide an ingroup with shibboleths. On the other hand, jargon that once was obscure outside a small ingroup can become generally known over time. For example, the terms bit, byte, and hexadecimal (which are terms from computing jargon[6]) are now recognized by many people outside computer science.


  • Etymology 1
  • Industry term 2
  • Accessibility issues 3
  • Modern vs. postmodern opinions on the use of jargon 4
  • Examples 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9


The French word is believed to have been derived from the Latin gaggire, meaning "to chatter", which was used to describe something in which the speaker did not understand. Middle English also has the verb jargounen meaning "to chatter", which comes from the French word.[7] The word may also come from Old French jargon meaning "chatter of birds".[8]

Industry term

An industry term is a type of technical terminology that has a particular meaning within a specific industry. The phrase implies that a word or phrase is a typical one within a particular industry or business and people within the industry or business will be familiar with and use the term.

Precise technical terms and their definitions are formally recognised, documented, and taught by educators in the field. Other terms are more colloquial, coined and used by practitioners in the field, and are similar to slang. The boundaries between formal and slang jargon, as in general English, are quite fluid. This is especially true in the rapidly developing world of computers and networking. For instance, the term firewall (in the sense of a device used to filter network traffic) was at first technical slang. As these devices became more widespread and the term became widely understood, the word was adopted as formal terminology.

Technical terminology evolves due to the need for experts in a field to communicate with precision and brevity, but often has the effect of excluding those who are unfamiliar with the particular specialized language of the group. This can cause difficulties as, for example, when a patient is unable to follow the discussions of medical practitioners, and thus cannot understand his own condition and treatment. Differences in jargon also cause difficulties where professionals in related fields use different terms for the same phenomena.

Accessibility issues

With the rise of the self-advocacy movement within the disability movement, jargonised language has been much objected to by advocates and self-advocates. Jargon is largely present in every day language, in newspapers, government documents and official forms. Several advocacy organisations work on influencing public agents to offer accessible information in different formats.[6] One accessible format that offers an alternative to jargonised language is Easy Read, which consists of a combination of plain English and images. Another alternative is a jargon buster, incorporated to certain technical documents.[6] There is a balance to be struck - excessive removal of technical terminology from a document leads to an equally undesirable outcome - dumbing down.

Modern vs. postmodern opinions on the use of jargon

The summary below discusses two differing viewpoints of the use of jargon, as described by Stephen K. Roney in "Postmodernist Prose and George Orwell." In his article, Roney discusses modern vs. postmodern styles of language using the contrasting views of George Orwell and Judith Butler.[9]

George Orwell, a socialist, leftist, and Marxist, believes in the modern style of language, deeming that good writing is clear and simple. In his essay, “Politics and the English Language,” he states the following arguments: technical language is nothing but an oratorical trick, simple language is required to clarify difficult concepts, while complex language is needed to explain simple concepts, and lastly, political language is structured to make lies seem like the truth. In short, Orwell is articulating that specialized language is not essential.[9]

Butler presents several postmodernist rebuttals to Orwell’s arguments. She states that difficult concepts need to be expressed with specialized vocabulary, or jargon. She quotes Marcuse, who believes that if people could use plain language to describe something, they would. She is attempting to prove that jargon is natural and necessary. Butler also says “language conditions thought,” meaning that the words we use shape the way we think.[9] Roney responds to that by saying that if language fully conditioned thought, we would not be able to think about language.[9] The last argument that Butler states is “if you’re talking about something obscure, your language should be obscure to reflect this accurately."[9]

Butler believes that specialized vocabulary is essential in writing and oratory because language should mirror reality. Orwell opposes most of her arguments with his modern style of language by saying that simplicity is the key to good writing and dialect because language should be easy for the audience to comprehend.


Many examples of jargon exist because of its use among specialists and subcultures alike. In the professional world, those who are in the business of filmmaking may use words like "vorkapich" to refer to a montage when talking to colleagues.[10] In Rhetoric, rhetoricians use words like "arete" to refer to a person of power's character when speaking with one another.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law
  2. ^ "Jargon". Merriam Webster.  
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Lanza, C. The Mercabul: The Counter-language of Youth, Milan, Mondadori, 1974
  5. ^ Quoted by Fernand Braudel, in discussing the origins of capital, capitalism, in The Wheels of Commerce, vol. II of Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, 1979:234. Originally found in Condillac's work (1776)Le Commerce et le gouvernement considérés relativement l'un à l'autre.
  6. ^ a b c d Lundin, Leigh (2009-12-31). "Buzzwords– bang * splat !". Don Martin School of Software. Criminal Brief. 
  7. ^ "jargon"
  8. ^ "jargon". Online Etymology Dictionary.
  9. ^ a b c d e Roney, Stephen (2002). "Postmodernist Prose and George Orwell". Academic Questions 15 (2): 13.  
  10. ^
  11. ^

Further reading

  • Green, Jonathon. Dictionary Of Jargon. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987 ISBN 0-7100-9919-3
  • Nash, Walter. Jargon: Its Uses and Abuses. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993 ISBN 0-631-18063-X
  • Sonneveld, H, Loenning, K: (1994): Introducing terminology, in Terminology, p. 1-6
  • Wright, S.E.; Budin, G.: (1997): Handbook of Terminology Management, Volume 1, Basic Aspects of Terminology Management, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, John Benjamins 370 pp.

External links

  • The Jargon Wiki - A wiki based on The Jargon File.
  • Business Jargon - Business Jargon and terminology.
  • Easy Read by Mencap
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