The jargon barrier

The following sentence is from a 1996 Smithsonian magazine article written by David Roberts:

Then as now, the pastime was so arcane that it had its own vocabulary, opaque to outsiders, and its own esoteric codex of ethical behavior.

Think about it. What could Roberts have been describing? I don’t recall, so I’m going to do some research. I’ll post the answer in the comments section when I find it.

Actually, it doesn’t matter what Roberts was discussing. We all experience the exclusionary effects of jargon and are occasionally mystified by others’ justification for doing things the way they’ve always been done in their unfamiliar territory. It feels safer to be among the insiders, so if we really want to get past the barriers, we learn the standard operating procedures, the peculiar language, and the secret handshake.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to recall what we thought before we conformed, because language can have strange effects on our beliefs.

Some exceptionally talented and popular authors are appreciated for their ability to decipher the “esoteric codex” so the outsiders can understand the insiders. Which of these writers do you rely on and recommend to others?

663136_35031392 (one way sign)
Photo courtesy of Lindsey Bergquist

3 Replies to “The jargon barrier”

  1. Thanks to Mike for the context (from the magazine article cited above):

    “In the early 1960s, when I first came to the Gunks, the crag was at the cutting edge of the sport of rock climbing. Then as now, the pastime was so arcane that it had its own vocabulary, opaque to outsiders, and its own esoteric codex of ethical behavior. Even to explain the basics—how an ascent unfolds, what to do with the rope and ‘hardware’—remains an expository challenge.

    “Thirty years ago, the Gunks scene was dominated by a rowdy, brilliant gang of anarchists called the Vulgarians. Even now, their high jinks remain the stuff of legend…”

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