Saturday, September 20, 2008

there's a time and a place for jargon

I've begun to fantasize about forcing Economists and economic experts interviewed to be forced to use words of three syllables or less at all times. By now it should be obvious to them that the American people, in the main, simply do not understand why various areas of the economy have fallen apart and must (or must not) be resurrected by our tax dollars. Listening to a call-in program yesterday, three people asked roughly the same question in the same way, and callers #2 and #3 indicated that they had heard the previous explanation and did not understand it.

This might make the economists feel demeaned or belittled. Tough. Most academics are forced to perform intellectually demeaning tasks on a regular basis. It wouldn't kill the economists to break matters down into short bits. Perhaps, it would encourage them to make better decisions in future.

Then, of course, force the various folks who will make money out of the bail-outs to justify their actions in very small words...

There's a time and a place for jargon. I can confidently use plenty of it, and fake teh use of still more. Graduate School certainly does a good job at teaching us how to pretend we know all sorts of long words - but we use them with each other. I would no more tell a freshman in college that the Twentieth century of American history "represents the declension of the Protestant hegemony" than I would expect them to perform brain surgery on a llama.

Sam leaped into the car this morning in a single bound, and became thoroughly excited when we got to the park. As I keep saying, hurrah for drugs!


John said...

We all use jargon, to some extent, I suppose. Partly to inflate the importance of our profession or trade, partly to impress, and partly to mystify in order to discorage awkward questions.

However many of us, unlike economists, don't have such fundamental impact on the lives of our questioners.

Maybe the new lively Sam should take over. Glad to hear how well he is :-)

SallyB said...

I know - we in the library business are all to guilty of unthinkingly using our professional jargon as well. You know you've done it when you get that "deer in the headlights" look from your patron, who wonders just what the heck you just told them.

But as for the economists, yes, I am sure that it's all very complicated and confusing to the average citizen like you or me, and I think that they use all that jargon to keep us in the dark about what's really happening, because I think if we all really knew, we'd be making runs on our local banks and sending the US economy - and for that matter, the world economy by extension - into a very deep Depression the likes of which we have not seen since The Big One in the 1930's.

And sadly, we don't have a modern day FDR to pull us out of this one......

Jim Wetzel said...

By coincidence, I was writing about more or less the same thing yesterday, and -- while I certainly agree that economists are more apt than most to hold the uninitiated off at arm's length by using jargon, I'm thinking that not letting them use big words is not enough. As Sally points out in the comment preceding mine, there is intent to deceive, too, on the part of those who bear some responsibility. And I think that, besides the jargon, there's also the use of deceptive metaphors ("clogged pipes" and the like) that are meant to cause us to misunderstand the nature and causes rapidly-increasing financial disorder.

I, too, am cheered to read about the improvement in Sam's quality of life. Good deal.