Skip to content

Who are you talking to with jargon? The cook or the customer?

Is your jargon just shorthand or is it inconsiderate?

When someone criticizes the use of jargon, other people may feel threatened. Or they’ll say: It is just shorthand in our field.

The problem is that people newly working in your field or students preparing to enter your field don’t know what it means. Many people are working in enterprises that commonly use both jargon (shortcuts like human-in-the-loop ML) and industry slang, (marketing lingo).

Recent surveys have shown that many people don’t know the shortcut’s full meaning. They just go along to get along. And to keep from being considered stupid.

In academia, the assumption is that students need to learn the industry jargon—but nobody ever teaches it. Students stumble along trying to discern meaning from context. As a mature person taking some university courses, I was shocked by the habit of using terminology without ever defining it.

Take a moment to practice empathy

I just ask you to take a moment to think about the person who is reading or listening. Are you just assuming that they understand the basic terms that you use so freely? A glossary of terms that will arise in the readings or lectures would be than a professional courtesy—it would be a human kindness.

And these problems in communication arise even before you take your product or idea out to the general community. Consider how easily people misunderstand. Explain yourself clearly; talk generic

When is a liquid chunky?

My spouse just asked me what we were having for dinner and I responded that it would be stew. Then I wondered if he would know the difference between a soup, a stew, or a chowder. If you were ordering in a restaurant, it might not matter to you. You could ask, what does that contain?

But, if you are the cook, you ought to know, and you may need to know before selecting the ingredients. But the customer wants to know enough to choose what to order, and some fancy names are just pretentious. After all, a soup
Is just a liquid food that is made from adding water, milk or a clear soup (!) to meat, fish, vegetables.

Cooking Jargon?
Consider these soup terms (definition from MacMillan Dictionary) :
• bisque
a thick soup made from shellfish
• bouillabaisse
a soup made from fish and vegetables
• bouillon
a clear soup made from meat and vegetables
• stock or broth
soup, especially when it is considered to be good for you

• chowder
a thick soup usually made with fish or shellfish, milk or cream, and vegetables
• consommé
a type of clear soup made from meat juices
• cream of something
a soup containing cream
• mulligatawny
a type of clear soup with a hot flavour
• oxtail
the tail of an ox eaten as food, often in soup

Localization?
Global businesses then consider marketing, and the terms used in particular places:
• cock-a-leekie
a type of Scottish soup made from chicken with leeks and other vegetables
• Scotch broth
a thick soup made from vegetables, meat, and barley
• Irish stew
a thick soup made from meat, potatoes, onions, and other root vegetables
• gazpacho
a cold Spanish soup made mainly with raw tomatoes, onions, garlic and cucumber
• gumbo
a thick soup made with chicken or fish and the vegetable okra, eaten mainly in the southern US
• minestrone
a type of Italian soup made from vegetables and small pieces of pasta

Jargon, business slang, and academese ruin your efforts to talk to the people that you want to reach. Just say no!