I was recently in a conversation on Twitter about, well, I’m not sure exactly, because it was so loaded with what was described at one point as academic language, that I had to read some of the posts twice before I think I understood what was being discussed. I actually replied that I wished people would start using English. There was actually some agreement with that response. I mean, in one tweet, someone referred to steelmanning, word I had never seen used before. It was used in a way to indicate an accusation made against the person tweeting. After looking it up, I discovered it was a way of taking an opponents strongest argument, and using that to refute their thesis. Now I’ve bored myself.
It comes down to this: what many call academic language, I refer to as jargon. People, in articles, essays, scientifically related or not, will use it to make themselves seem more authoritative to what they are writing about. Sometimes, it belongs as the best description of what is being explained, but other times, mostly when the audience is not literate in the subject, it tends to confound the reader. Think about it this way: reading an essay where every paragraph, you have to stop and look up some terminology, then think about how it’s been used in the essay, and do this every paragraph, or worse, every few sentences. Frustration is a word that comes to mind. And no, i’m not referring to academic journals where the articles/essays are written for those that have expertise in the subject, but popular publications, meant for the general public, with the idea that some will be familiar with the subject, others not so much.
It’s not o much that we regularly see jargon in various publications, but that it’s regularly used online, in social medias venues. What I normally witness is those used to describe some social condition, like intersectionality. It’s used to describe a person or a group thsat the writer believes is a victim of oppression. Until recently (the past year or so), I had never considered that word in the context it’s now framed. I needed to become aware of what others online were actually discussing to realize what they were referring to, didn’t include me. I think it’s a fabricated term, at least in how it’s used and is much overused by the online community to discuss oppressed groups of people. It’s also labeling people that may not consider themselves part of any particular group. That’s the worst part of some of this social jargon, categorizing people, to delegitimize some, and promote others. Another is see quite a bit is postmodern, or some iteration. I think that most people that use this term, don’t fully understand exactly what it means. Here’s how Wikipedia defines postmodernism:
Postmodernism is characterized by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward the meta-narratives and ideologies of modernism, often calling into question various assumptions of Enlightenment rationality. Postmodernism developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism and represented a departure or rejection of modernism..
Someone just kill me. What does any of that nonsense actually mean? Meta-narrative? I don’t consider myself poorly educated but when I read something like that, I want to shut down my mind. We live in a world of nonsense. I’ve actually seen the two used together online, as in postmodern intersectionality and intersectional postmodernism. Seriously? What is it the person is actually saying is unknown to me and I usually won’t peruse a twenty or thirty thread post to try and discover what’s actually meant.
I use my life-learned vocabulary skills when I write, along with a thesaurus when looking for a synonym to a word I may have begun to overuse. I don’t look for the most painfully obscure word as a replacement. I try to use the most common language that everyone reading may readily understand. Sometimes, I think there are those that use extraordinary terminology to obfuscate (is that one?) their intent. In pother situations, I find that many using words and terms have no idea as to what they are referring and that their audience appreciates the fact that these people are really smart, when, well, maybe the opposite is true.