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2008-10-10

By Greg Hanscomb (Denmark)

You know what we mean, right?

Authoring, DTP, language resource management, MLV, source text, target language*

 

The above are all examples of jargon – words and terms that relate to a specific activity, profession or grouping. In its purest form jargon develops to more quickly or accurately express ideas that are frequently discussed between members of a group. The above examples are from our own industry, but jargon is found and used everywhere, being particularly prevalent in the worlds of sports, medicine, academe, the military and – not least – business.

From the French, jargon originally meant ‘a chattering of birds’, that is to say something incoherent or meaningless – unless of course you happened to be a chattering bird – and this is jargon’s greatest problem.

Jargon is wholly context dependent. For those of us working in the translation industry the above terms are all familiar and understandable. Yet for anyone outside our industry ‘language resource management’ or ‘MLV’ probably mean very little.
Like beauty, jargon is said to be in the eye of the beholder, and this is perhaps why it gets such a bad press. Rather than being seen as something useful or positive, jargon is typically viewed as ‘uncommon or pretentious vocabulary that is often vague in meaning’. This is because jargon is all about belonging.

Jargon can often include acronyms – abbreviations that are formed using the initial components in a phrase or name and either spoken using these initials (CEO) or as whole word (Interpol).
Some acronyms, like our own MLV above, are almost entirely exclusive as they are wholly context specific and some are so familiar we might not even think of them as acronyms – scuba, laser, radar and yuppie being good examples.
Others have broken out of their original context because they are offensive and/or amusing. Try Googling these when you’re looking up scuba: SNAFU, FUBAR and RTFM.

Some would argue that it is best to call a spade a spade (rather than, say, a manual geomorphologic modification implement). There are of course many good reasons for taking a KISS or Keep it simple, stupid approach to communication and many more for avoiding too much BS or male bovine excrement. However, jargon has a key role to play in our communication with each other. Jargon – in all its wonderful and abstract forms – actually brings us closer together, among much else allowing us to our talk about subjects and themes that we would otherwise not be able to address or discuss.

As Oscar Wilde said, “The man who could call a spade a spade should be compelled to use one.” After all, were we to remove all the hot air our use of language generates, we would soon discover that the world is a very cold place indeed – TTFN!


*Authoring: a term for the process of writing original content and texts
DTP: Desktop publishing – creating page layouts on a computer, using software such as Quark Xpress or Adobe InDesign.
Language resource management: making the most of all the word, phrases and terms your company creates
MLV: Multiple Language Vendor – a translation company working in many – rather than just one - languages
Source text: The original text that needs to be translated to another language.
Target language: The language that the source text is translated into.
As one of Denmark’s leading and most experienced MLVs, we are happy to advise you on any aspect of global communication support, including authoring content, translation, language resource management and all your DTP needs.

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Category: ON (CORPORATE) COMMUNICATION

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