Language is flooded with words that reflect lifestyles, cultural groups dialects, professional practices or occupations, and those that we just plain make up. Jargon is great, if you’re talking with individuals familiar with the business, topic or area. If you’re communicating to a broader diverse audience, using jargon can lead to confusion.
Merriam-Webster defines jargon as the technical terminology or characteristic idiom of a special activity or group.
We use jargon at work or when we’re talking within a particular group of people who can relate to the words we use. For example, a term I like to use when I talk about communication is “brain dump” — how I get the thoughts from my head onto the page. In business meetings, you might add points raised to the “parking lot” or ask to take them “offline” for later discussion. When someone “socializes” an idea, they’re sharing it with others. On the golf course, you might get an “eagle” or a “birdie” depending on the number of strokes you get under par (the recommended number of shots to get to the hole). An eagle is 2 under par. A birdie is 1 shot under par.
And then there’s slang. Slang is similar to jargon in that it’s familiar to a particular group. The words are often made up or variations of other words. You could say, this blog is dope (cool), if you like.
We all love our acronyms — using the first letter of each word rather than the full word. NASA for example is an acronym for National Aeronautics and Space Administration, PTA for Parent Teacher Association, ASAP for as soon as possible, KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken, etc. (Et cetera).
Social media has introduced a plethora of acronyms: BRB, LMK, TTYL, FOMO, NM, BTW, LOL, OMG… There are hundreds of them!
Slang, jargon and acronyms are part of our every day lives. We all have our favourites and we all use some every day. When you’re communicating, it’s important to recognize your audience and avoid using jargon they may not be familiar with. Writing in plain language ensures your audience understands what they’re reading the first time they read it.
Now to really flip this on its head. Some of today’s common words are actually acronyms that people would not recognize if you spelled out. Take a look.
- Laser — Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
- Scuba — Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus
- Taser — Thomas A Swift Electric Rifle
- ZIP Code — Zone Improvement Plan
- PIN — Personal Identification Number
Crazy! What are your favourite acronyms or slang words?