After looking at this activity you may find it useful to do the other activies in this topic, 'Buzzwords' and 'Slang'. It is important to bear in mind that these categories are not rigid and can overlap, that a word can slip from one to another, and that they are mainly useful in giving us ways to look at the words of the recent past and at changing usage and meanings.

We all need specialist vocabulary to communicate in specific areas and this can be called jargon, especially by those who do not understand it.

What kinds of jargon do you know?

Jargon might be musical, mechanical, culinary, scientific, technological or many other things; it might concern an area of study, a business, a sport, a creative activity… The list is endless.

What would be the context for the following warning?

If you apply custom formats with the format menu commands then some of the formats will be overridden if you choose an alternative command option.

Sometimes numbers are part of the jargon. What is being discussed here?

The manager insisted that a 4-4-2 system would provide better results than the previous 5-2-3 formation.

What is the context for this piece of advice?

By unhighlighting the autocrossfade, you can modify fades manually on consecutive tracks.


If you felt at a loss to place any of these examples, then notice that frustration. This is how jargon can make us feel excluded, when we are not familiar with it. Watch out for those who use it on purpose to conceal, deceive or exclude. The key issue with jargon is how and with whom it is being used.

Sometimes specialist vocabulary is full of time-saving abbreviations. An engineer has been known to say,

'Here are the EPU and the MCS required for EFAT prior to the SIT.'

(meaning: Here are the Electrical Power Unit and the Master Control Station required for Extended Factory Acceptance Testing prior to the Systems Integration Test).

This is efficient and effective communication between colleagues who understand it all. Beyond that context, the full version is needed for meaningful communication.


Some characters in literature demonstrate jargon effectively. When Mr Barnacle, in Dickens' Little Dorrit, responds to an enquiry from Mr Clennam as follows, is he trying to inform or deter?

'The Circumlocution Department, Sir… may have possibly recommended… that some public claim against the insolvent estate of a firm or copartnership to which this person may have belonged, should be enforced. The question may have been, in the course of official business, referred to the Circumlocution Department for its consideration. The department may have either originated, or confirmed, a Minute making that recommendation.'

In this case Mr Clennam persists in his enquiries where others might have retreated.

We have all experienced the discomfort of having others share talk we can only partially follow through not knowing that particular jargon. But perhaps we all do it sometimes too?