One purpose of jargon is to rationalize discourse by substituting objective language for subjective language. (Just look at that sentence.) Ironically, removing emotion-soaked terms makes language sound disturbed, robotic. Take this blurb from the DSM-IV (the bible of psychiatric diagnosis) describing obsessive compulsive disorder (item #300.3):
Patients with this disorder are plagued with recurrent
obsessions or compulsions, often with both. Obsessions may
manifest as recurrent thoughts, ideas, images, impulses, fears,
or doubts. The obsessions are autonomous; although patients
who find themselves obsessing may resist them, they are
unable to stop them; they come and go on their own.
Compulsions, likewise, may manifest in a variety of ways.
Patients may feel compelled to touch, to count, to check, to
have everything symmetrically arranged, or to repeatedly wash their hands.
Oh my. What is this language if not obsessed with counting, checking and systematically arranging?
Poetry and a sense of irony can rescue language from such barbarism. In the “Naming of Parts” Henry Reed juxtaposes the verbiage of a WWII drill instructor with the interior monologue of a new recruit:
This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.
And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.
Some jargon can be quite beautiful (think botany). When does jargon dehumanize and when does it elevate? Bring in a photocopied page from some jargon repository—the Merck drug manual, a business text, a field surgery handbook, whatever appeals—and prepare to perform a poetry extraction.
Your facilitator is Scot Brannon.
Writers of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels gather Tuesdays at 7P to read new work, the work of someone else or to just be in the engaging company of other writers. Your donation of $5 helps SPLAB continue our programming. Please bring 8 copies of the work you plan to read. If you do not bring copies, they are available for 10c.
Living Room happens @ SPLAB in the Cultural Corner at 3651 S. Edmunds. (Look for the SPLAB sign on the wall and come inside.) We’re 2 blocks from the Columbia City Link Light Rail Station. (Parking is available on the school grounds.)