30th July 2010

"Thursday: We're in the middle of an isolated high-coincidental localized entropic field decreasement.
Wilbur: We're in a what?
Thursday: We're in a pseudoscientific technobabble.
Wilbur: Ah! One of those.
" ~ Lost in a Good Book


Elizabeth: Captain Barbossa, I am here to negotiate the cessation of hostilities against Port Royal.
Barbossa: There be a lot of long words in there, miss. We're naught but humble pirates. What is it that you want?
Elizabeth: I want you to leave and never come back.
Barbossa: I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request.
Elizabeth: [blank stare]
Barbossa: Means "No".
~ Pirates of the Caribbean

A few months back, I did an article, "Terminology Tyrants" - this is a follow-up from that article, with a bit more depth behind it.

My attitude then was that the jargon many people used with relation to Tango was just that - jargon - and was unnecessary.

On consideration, I think that was a bit of an extreme attitude. There's some worth in the terminology; it's just the way sometimes terminology is misused which causes issues.

Or, "terminology doesn't confuse people, people confuse people".

Why Jargon?

[Out of everyone in Saudi Arabia preparing for Operation Desert Storm] "when it comes to truly not speaking English, it's impossible to top the [US] Department of Defense" which calls a metal nut (which goes on a bolt) a "hexaform rotatable surface compression unit." ~ PJ. O'Rourke, Give War A Chance

A good description of "Jargon" is from TvTropes (warning: that site is seriously addictive...):
"Jargon may seem incomprehensible to anyone not part of that particular field, but does indeed make sense to anyone familiar with the terms involved, for the simple reason that jargon is meant to allow for clear, unambiguous communication between specialists:"

Note the last bit: "communication between specialists". That's very very important.

Is it hard?

Bruce Wayne: Was I supposed to understand any of that?
Fox: Not at all. I just wanted you to understand how hard it was.
~ Batman Begins

In my previous article, I said "The interesting thing about jargon is that it actually makes it harder to train people"

Well, sort of.

It makes it harder to train people who don't know what the jargon means.

If you're training people who understand, and are comfortable with, the terminology, using it can make sense.

Another reason for using jargon - and one I completely missed last time round - is that it teaches people jargon. Like it or not, jargon is used a lot in different classes. If your students venture to other classes (how dare they!), then it's helpful if they're familiar with some of the common terms used.

Good and bad jargon

"Because it is SUBmersed in a MARINE environment, I call it the Going-Under-The-Water-Safely Device" ~ Leonard of Quirm

Jargon is useful in context. For example, when trying to describe posture, you're talking about your muscles, and it's quite a difficult concept to get over to people. At some point, you pretty much have to describe "axis", "intention", and so on. Simply because those are almost the only ways to describe how to achieve good posture.

Another example: when you talk about musicality, you pretty much have to talk about "phrases" - there really isn't an easier way of explaining the structure of a typical tango track. And believe me, I've tried...

Jargon is not useful as a throwaway line, out of context. For example, if you're discussing dissociation, it's not always wise to assume that the audiences knows what "maintain your core" actually means.

So, I always use jargon?

"Irrigation of the land with seawater desalinated by fusion power is ancient. It's called 'rain'." ~ Michael McClary

Hell no.

If you're teaching a class on a giro, then call it a giro. If you've just spent 10 minutes teaching dissociation, then by all means call it dissociation.

But don't use jargon which is unrelated to the class, in the expectation of the class all being able to understand it. Don't teach a class on ochos and then add, as a throwaway line, "Oh, and remember to keep your core solid" - chances are, many of the students just won't know what this means.

So I guess all I mean is, use words to describe the movements and technique, but still keep it appropriate to the audience you're addressing.

- David Bailey, 30th July 2010

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