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Jargon is terminology, much like slang, that relates to a specific activity, profession, or group. It develops as a kind of shorthand, to express ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group, and also to distinguish those belonging to a group from those who are not. This is sometimes called "guild" or "insider" jargon. Newcomers or those unfamiliar with a subject can often be tagged by their incorrect use of jargon. The use of jargon by outsiders is considered by insiders to be audacious, since it constitutes a claim to membership of the insider group. Conversely, since outsiders may not see the reference made via jargon, they are all the more sensitive to its more visible elitist social framing. Jargon to the outsider usually comes across as pedantic, nerdy, and divorced from meaning.

Jargon can be distinguished from terminology in that it is informal and essentially part of the oral culture of a group, with limited formal or written expression. Many jargon terms have non-jargon equivalents which would be used in print or when addressing non-specialists; other jargon terms, particularly those which are used to characterise or even ridicule non-specialists, have no such equivalents.

Uses of jargon

Jargon is used in sports; one can find jargon just by watching a major league baseball broadcast, where commentators compete for the greatest density of technical sport terms and other sport-related metaphors. Jargon is used in technical professions; see technical terminology. The rise of information technology and the Internet created many overlapping jargons used by nerds, geeks and hackers to communicate; the proper usage of these words being a prerequisite for inclusion in these groups. See the Jargon File. An ancient area of jargon is nautical terms.

Meta Jargon, Jargon of Authenticity

Often, people will use jargon derisively, meant to indicate disapproval with the use of words whose meaning is esoteric, and thus exclusionary of people who do not understand their meaning and background, for example in The Jargon of Authenticity by Theodore Wiesengrund Adorno. To describe an idea as jargon accomplishes in Bourdieu's terms several tasks. It maintains the speaker's "distinction" and social role as critic and judge, while at time excusing the speaker from listening or reading with attention, and it also expresses a safe, egalitarian attitude. Indeed, these meta-attitudes and this more sophisticated use of the concept of jargon is today possibly more frequent than guild-like insider jargon. As it happens, today's professional organizations have legal structures of access which enable their members to override differences in "jargon" in such a manner that doctors, and to an extent lawyers, can understand each other across national and cultural boundaries. In technical efforts across those borders, terms of art and jargon are readily resolved as part of daily life in informative conversation.

The jargon of authenticity, and the readiness to accuse a given writer or speaker of jargoning, is far more common than first-order jargon today, as is the fear of guild formation and the fear of nonmonetary "insider trading" when members of a profession or para-profession collaborate. Generally, today, economic demands for results prevent this from occurring. Instead, a looser, demotic "terminology" takes hold in contexts where the midlevel fear of giving offense to powerful but aliterate outsiders (such as CEOs and politicians) overrides anything like professional solidarity or precision in speech. The new "jargon" panders to and reflects the attainment level of the pool from which the powerful outsiders are drawn; both according to what they expect, and what they feel they can tolerate.

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English usage

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