Different Definitions of Jargon

First let's see the official definition given by credible souces, such as dictionaries and professional websites.

====1.Jargon is a terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event.[1]
====2. A jargon is a word or expression that is used by a particular profession or group of people, and is difficult for others to understand.[2]
====3. The specialized language of a professional, occupational, or other group, often meaningless to outsiders.[3]

To sum up, the word "jargon" means a word or an expression that refers to a specific thing or activity relating to a certain field and only professionals in that field can understand. As for outsiders, jargons are mostly meaningless or easy to be misunderstood.

However, today this word contains certain demeaning tones: it is more commonly used to refer to a nonsensical, flowery, or meaningless style of talk or writing. When an article is described as “full of jargons”, it means the writing uses a lot of unusual and pretentious vocabulary, and the author is just using convoluted phrasing and sentence patterns to show that he or she is knowledgeable and professional. Another extended meaning of jargon is a hybrid language or dialect, the so-called pidgin. So why did the word jargon change from a neutral term to a derogatory one? Personally speaking, I believe it is because jargons keep people who are not specialists out of the field, which can be really annoying for the majority of the readers. Of course, then all those jargons won’t be their favorite terms. The second reason might be that scholars sometimes tend to overuse jargons in their papers and speeches. They use the jargon not only because it is more convenient, but also because it makes them look professional and trustworthy. But since recently some of these scholars and experts turned out to be having no practical skills or substantial knowledge inside, people began to doubt their ability and the words they use.

The Origin of the Word "Jargon"

The word jargon originated from Old French, meaning "the twittering or warbling of birds". The root of the word is "garg". There are also other words which stem from it, such as “gargle”, meaning to utter with gargling or burbling sounds; and “gurgle”, referring to the bubbling sound of water flowing from a bottle with a narrow neck.


The Comments On Jargon

Negative attitude:


  • ============"Jargon is the verbal sleight of hand that makes the old hat seem newly fashionable; it gives an air of novelty and specious profundity to ideas that, if stated directly, would seem superficial, stale, frivolous, or false."(David Lehman)[4]
  • ============"Hygienic treatment' is funeral jargon for the temporary preservation of a corpse."(Jessica Mitford)[5]
  • ============"Jargon is the epic poetry of modern business. It can turn a bunch of windbags in a meeting room into a 'quick wins taskforce.' I once asked a handyman toiling in an office doorway whether he was installing a wheelchair ramp. 'No,' he said solemnly, 'it's a diversity access feature.'"(Jonathan Guthrie, "Three Cheers for the Epic Poetry of Jargon." (Financial Times)[6]
  • Ours is the age of substitutes: instead of language, we have jargon; instead of principles, slogans; and, instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas."(Eric Bentley)

  • ============"Generally, when people use jargon not to communicate but to impress their audiences with their importance . . . or use it to announce membership in a group, communication suffers and the jargon can quickly degenerate into something close to the twittering of birds."(W. Lutz)[7]

  • ============Film Jargon"I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, 'If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don't, you won't be able to understand your own explanation.' That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel."(Roger Ebert, “O, Synecdoche, My Synecdoche!” (Chicago Sun-Times)[8]

Positive attitude:

  • ============Is Jargon Necessary?Should jargon be censored? Many people think it should. However, close examination of jargon shows that, although some of it is vacuous pretentiousness, and therefore dysphemistic, its proper use is both necessary and unobjectionable."(K. Allen and K. Burridge, Forbidden Words)[9]
  • ============"For those who use it, it is a language which describes the world in which we live.” (Peter Ives)[10]

Neutral attitude:

  • ========"When per is used to mean 'for each,' 'by means,' 'through,' or 'on account of,' it is appropriate (per annum, per diem, per head). When used to mean 'according to' (per your request, per your order), the expression is jargon and should be avoided."(Gerald J. Alred, et al)[11]

From the above comments and observations made by either linguistics or experts in English writing, we can see that the society's attitude toward jargons are, on the whole, quite negative. I think we should take a closer look at the question whether the disadvantages of jargon outweigh advantages of jargon. And the following scene might help us analyse this problem.

Advatages & Disadvantages of Jargon


A scene that might take place in a company office:

The boss (B): Have you finished your work on that M&A plan?

The green hand (G): Sorry, I haven't. I am actually a bit confused about what M&A really means...

B: And the L/C? You still haven't received it yet?

G: L/C? I don't understand...

B: Well, if you have any problem, you should be above board, you know, air it out.

G:Air it out? But the window is closed...

B: I think you should talk more to your collegues and learn from them, otherwise you'll be fired. Ok, you can go now, remember to prepare for tomorrow's power lunch with the Microsoft CEO.

G:...Power lunch?...What does that mean?...What whould I do?...

From this dialogue, we can see clearly that the use of jargon might cause misunderstandings even disability of communication for outsiders or people who newly enter the field. It also causes emotional isolation in those who do not really know the meaning of the jargon. The four main disadvantages of jargons are as follows:

  • Make the outsider feel excluded

  • Confuse the outsider or the green hand

  • Complicate the simplest message

  • Lead to misunderstandings

However, we should also be keenly aware of the fact that jargons are very useful and are a convenient way for professionals to express their ideas in a more clear and direct way. For example, doctors are a group of people who are fond of using jargons, such as ABG, agonal... the list can go on and on, with thousands of words which common people have no idea of. But most doctors are not using them to show off, they are trying to deliver their messages more clearly and quickly so as to save some time, since time means life in rescuing the patients. So we should not neglect the positive side of jargons. The advantages of jargons can be summed up as:

  • A sense of belonging to a certain group (as can be seen in military troops, lawyers, doctors...jargon is one important tie that bounds them together)

  • Easier to communicate within a group

  • Help show one's professionality

Jargon in Specific Fields

As what has been said in the prior paragraphs, jargons are commonly used by groups that have similar interests. Therefore, if we really want to jdig into this topic, we will need to look into all these fields, which is, unfortunately, almost impossible. Unlike what most people have thought, every field or even every group has its own jargons. Do you still remember the secret words that you used in talking to your buddies which others can hardly understand? That is also a form of jargon. Of course, today when we talk about jargon, we are refering to the most commonplace ones, the ones appear in medical books, legal documents, military talk or on the Internet. Indeed, these are the four most common jargons seen in our lives.I'd like to introduce only a small portion of jargons in each field to you. To see more examples of jargons in other fields, you can check the "see also" part.

==__//Medical Jargons[12]

Understanding some of the most commonly used medical jargons will be really helpful when you go to see a physician.

I.“Alert and Oriented”
1. “Alert” means “awake.” Rarely, “alert” will indicate mental acuity, but this is not the common medical usage.
2. “Oriented” means that the person knows his/her name, the location, the date, and possibly, the general nature of the interaction.
a. Oriented X 1 - Knows own name only
b. Oriented X 2 – Knows name and location
c. Oriented X 3 – Knows name, location, and date/time. In most medical settings, patients are assessed only to this level– often written as “O X 3.”
d. Oriented X 4 – Knows name, location, date/time, and general nature of the event or interaction. This is not the medical equivalent of competency. A person may understand the general nature of an interaction (ex. meeting with an attorney), without understanding pertinent details (ex. ramifications of executing a Durable Power of Attorney).

II. Dementia
1. Definition – Factual memory impairment, plus one of the following:
a. Aphasia (Language impairment)
b. Apraxia (Motor activity impairment)
c. Agnosia (Recognition impairment)d. Impaired executive functioningi. The abilities involved in planning, considering options and likely consequences, understanding and use of abstract concepts, organizing, strategizing, initiating behavior, and monitoring behavior and outcomes. It is thought that impaired executive functions occur in the elderly at least as frequently as memory problems; however, the presentation may be subtle, and impairment may be mistaken for personality quirks.

III. Delirium
1. Definition - A sudden state of severe confusion and rapid changes in brain function. Sometimes called “encephalopathy,” “acute brain syndrome,” or “acute confusional state.” The person may be agitated, hallucinating and hyperactive; or may be quiet and somnolent. People in a delirium are unable to concentrate and their thinking is disorganized. This is often evidenced by rambling, irrelevant, or incoherent speech. Sleep disturbance is common, as is disorientation to time, place, or person, and also memory problems. This condition may be confused with dementia.
IV. Delusion
Definition - A false belief, not consistent with the person’s education, social setting, culture or religion that is maintained despite contrary evidence.

V. Depression
Definition - A biological disorder that impairs function of several centers in the brain - going beyond mere ‘sadness’ to include a variety of physiological changes. Psychotic symptoms may arise when the disease is especially severe. Affects 3-5% of the population.

VI. Mini-Mental State Examination (AKA “mini-mental,” “MMSE,” or “Folstein“)
1. Description - This is a 30-question, general screening test of cognitive functions. It has many limitations, but is easy to administer and score, and is often used.

VII. Psychosis
Definition - A fundamental physiological disruption in brain function that manifests as symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, and/or grossly illogical or bizarre behavior. This is a thought disorder that causes grossly impaired reality testing. Common causes include: schizophrenia, depression, mania, delusional disorders, “brief psychotic” disorders, medical/drug induced disorders, delirium, and dementia.

To find more, please check the medical jargon list in the "see also" part

==Legal Jargons[13]
Acknowledgement: The signature of a clerk or attorney certifying that the person filing the document has sworn that the contents are true, and/or that the document is signed by his or her free act and deed.

Action: Also called a case or lawsuit. A civil judicial proceeding where one party sues another for a wrong done, or to protect a right or to prevent a wrong.

Adjournment: Postponement of a court session until another time or place.

Adjudication: A decision or sentence imposed by a judge.

Adjudicatory Hearing: Juvenile court proceeding to determine whether the allegations made in a petition are true and whether the child/youth should be subject to orders of the court.

To find more, please check the medical jargon list in the "see also" part.

Military Jargons[14]
1MC - The basic one-way communications system on a vessel. Reaches all spaces on a ship. Used for general announcements, and to transmit general alarm system signals. Control stations are located on the bridge, quarterdeck, and central station. Other transmitters may be installed at additional points. There are other MC and JV circuits used for communications within the ship. They are typically system-specific, i.e. weapons systems, navigation communication, engineering systems, firefighting, etc.

130-rpm fish - A form of sea life (type unknown) which makes a sound very similar to a propeller turning at 130 rpm.

90-Day Wonder - Derisive term for a graduate of OCS. The derision arises from the lack of experience and naval knowledge of the typical graduate. Commonly seen as "90-Day Blunder."

99 - (USN aviation) Precedes a radio call which applies to a group of aircraft, e.g. "99 Guntrains" would address all aircraft with a Guntrain callsign.

Aback - Backing a sail is turning it so that the wind hits the front face; the effect is to slow a ship or boat. A sail which is being backed is said to be 'aback.' A sailing ship which accidentally goes aback when tacking loses its momentum and is said to be 'in irons.' A person is said to be 'all aback' when he is confused or surprised.

Abaft - Aft of a given point on a ship; e.g. the bridge is abaft the bow.

ABC - Atomic, Biological, Chemical. An early term since supplanted by NBC.

Accelerated Stall - (Aviation) A stall which occurs during accelerated flight, i.e. while the pilot is pulling G's. Generally a much more violent event than an unaccelerated stall.

Computer Jargons

Active desktop New Windows 98 technology: makes your wallpaper interactive- links can be made in the wallpaper, news / information can be displayed and updated as wallpaper.

Active Partition:The primary partition that is setup to be read and used by the computer / MBR to boot. The file system is read, and this becomes your 'boot up' partition.

ActiveX: New technology that improves video and audio output.

Add-on: Hardware added to a computer after purchase to enhance ability.

Agent Part: of a program or system that prepares information to be "exchanged" with another program, printer, computer, server, etc.

All elbows: TSR programs that steal resources without checking other programs in memory

See Also:

An academic article discussing about how we should use jargons
The whole jargon list:
Medical jargons
Legal jargons

Military jargons
Computer jargons

Linguistic jargons
Computer jargons
  1. ^


  2. ^
    Advanced Learner's English-Chinese Dictionary
  3. ^
  4. ^


  5. ^


    • ==

      • ==

        • Jessica Mitford, The American Way of Death, 1963>
  6. ^


    • ==

      • ==

        • Financial Times, Dec. 13, 2007>
  7. ^


    • ==

      • ==

        • W. Lutz, "Jargon." Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992>
  8. ^


    • ==

      • ==

        • Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 10, 2008>
  9. ^


    • ==

      • ==

        • K. Allen and K. Burridge, Forbidden Words, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006>
  10. ^


  11. ^
    • ==

      • ==

        • Gerald J. Alred, et al., Handbook of Technical Writing, 8th ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006>
  12. ^ //__==
    Bennett Blum, M.D., Inc.
    Forensic and Geriatric Psychiatry Consultation
  13. ^ //__==
  14. ^ //__==