Occupational Jargon. What is it, and is it getting in the way of…conversation?

High sticks…roughing…cross-checking, are you aware of this jargon and to which occupation it belongs? The definitive answer is probably no. These words have quite possibly never passed your ears — if they have, you probably spend upwards of 70 minutes skating round an ice-rink, wearing a humbug-esque nylon shirt, that, or you know your ice-hockey lingo, of course.

The truth is, especially in today’s modern society, what with technical terms like computer abbreviations or ‘acronyms’, most professions and even jobs in general will have some kind of occupational jargon. The long and often unpronounceable words we hear when watching Casualty? Jargon. It is everywhere. To understand it, you have to be apart of an elite group; a status only achieved after years if intense training in a high-security institution… No, that’s a joke, but in all seriousness, these words and phrases, so easily bandied about by those in the know, can often be highly excluding to the average person.

In any job, a certain level of understanding between colleagues needs to be achieved; words and phrases to describe technical terms are therefore used, but this method does have its disadvantages for the untrained ear. Whether you are a customer at a workforce, or a new employee, you are likely going to have to learn new words and their meanings to make your experience there run smoothly; it’s no good if you don’t understand what’s happening, but this process takes time. It is the same for recreational use, too, like in the example of ice-hockey, falling under the umbrella term of sports. If you are new to something like this, you definitely won’t understand some rules and certain gameplay aspects, like why a player has been sent to the ‘sin-bin’… The referee has just blown the whistle, you find out it’s because the puck has been ‘iced’…what does this mean? Someone has applied a layer of regal icing and marzipan to the puck? No. It refers to when a player shoots the puck across both the centre red line, and the opposing team’s goal line (puck remaining untouched). You would have never guessed.

When we look at it like this, occupational jargon is all very confusing, unless we know the meanings; it does however have its advantages. Ice hockey is a fast-pace, fast-moving sport. Fast and precise decisions need to be made, especially penalties and things like the said roughing and cross-checking etc (foul-play and therefore resulting in penalties). This is where occupational jargon comes in. These words and phrases, though not understood by many, are essential to keeping the game running; without them, we would, as viewers and players alike, have no clue what’s happening — long descriptions like “Jace Coyle’s stick was above the hight of the crossbar, so this is why we have stopped the game…a penalty is therefore awarded to…”, it just wouldn’t work. Let’s just say ‘high sticks’. Its so much more simple. It’s the same for practically all occupations; jargon allows messages to be conveyed easily and quickly without the need to go into a spiel of description. It is inclusive to those who know, and exclusive to those who don’t, but it is highly necessary.

Should we all try to mirror this jargon, this language? Should we make the effort to ‘converge’, so we understand? Of course the answer is no as it would be largely futile, unless of course you are interested in that specific field, or sport, etc. Convergence – mirroring language – is in fact a useful tool, however. It’s many uses are great, if only for the fact you can use elaborate words and phrases when having a laugh with friends, or when you want to sound highly intellectual. So this proves it, there is a fun side to all of this jargon-talk; long words always do seem to sound impressive, so long as you don’t use them to make yourself sound more…photosynthesis…

In all honesty, jargon is just that – jargon. It’s used in places to help the process of whatever it is people are trying to communicate. A long list of complicated words that might one day, somehow, find their way into your vocabulary.


(Originally written 15/12/15)




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