Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Totally Jargon

by Tom Bozzo

Over at The Columnist Manifesto, which I've been sadly neglecting to link lately, Oscar yesterday uncorked a truly great line:
In fact, I think "term of art" is a term of art.
This was en route to a discussion of an academic dinner out where Oscar reported:
I felt increasingly challenged to follow the conversation, a feeling which reached its apex around the moment when one of my dinner companions rolled out the world "totalizing."
"Totalizing" was totally new to me, though that's not too surprising as I'm not an academic and only recently have branched out in my economics journal reading beyond the Journal of Econometrics, the substantive portions of which are written in math.

Oscar's analysis is that terms like "totalizing" amount to "gang symbols" for intellectuals, and in comments Wendy (link?) observes that "totalizing" has a uselessness — to the extent we understand what it means, it's covered by pre-existing vocabulary — and artlessness "more deserving of the MBA crowd." That just about nails it.

That's not to say there isn't good jargon out there. In blogging jargon, "trackback"(*) is efficient (compared to "link on blog A generated by blog B's blogger that signals that blog B has linked blog A") and broadly descriptive of its function. My favorite is perhaps Max Sawicky's "Blogistan" ("the right wing of the blogosphere") for its poetic-allusive character, though it is sufficiently esoteric that Max usually provides an in-line concordance when using it on MaxSpeak itself.

If only one of us had cooked up the term "man date" for the Madison male blogger get-together of a few weeks ago...

(*) "Trackback" is additionally interesting as it seems to have evolved from the name (as "TrackBack") of a feature of the Movable Type blogging software to generic jargon.
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