Jargon

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Origin

Middle English, from Anglo-French jargun, gargon

Definitions

b : a strange, outlandish, or barbarous language or dialect
c : a hybrid language or dialect simplified in vocabulary and grammar and used for communication between peoples of different speech
  • 2: the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group
  • 3: obscure and often pretentious language marked by circumlocutions and long words

Description

Jargon is terminology which is especially defined in relationship to a specific activity, profession, group, or event. The philosophe Condillac observed in 1782 that "Every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas." As a rationalist member of the Enlightenment he continued, "It seems that one ought to begin by composing this language, but people begin by speaking and writing and the language remains to be composed."

In other words, the term covers the language used by people who work in a particular area or who have a common interest. Much like slang, it can develop as a kind of short-hand, to express ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group, though it can also be developed deliberately using chosen terms. A standard term may be given a more precise or unique usage among practitioners of a field. In many cases this causes a barrier to communication with those not familiar with the language of the field. As an example, the words RAM, bit, byte, CPU, and hexadecimal are jargon terms related to computing.

In Jewish communities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the term "jargon" was occasionally used as a pejorative term for Yiddish. Such usage was current both among assimilationists, who felt that Jews would do better to speak the majority language of the surrounding society, and among Zionists who urged them to speak Hebrew.