Terminology Tyrants

18th February 2010

"Jargon": derived from the 14th-century term for "twittering or warbling of birds" ~ Dictionary definition

"After all, jargon is only jargon for those who don't use it." ~ Peter Ives


As you can tell from the Glossary, there's a wide range of weird and wonderful names to describe the motions we use in Tango.

But here's the thing; none of them are needed.

They're just jargon.

Hard work

The interesting thing about jargon is that it actually makes it harder to train people - as that Wikipedia article says: "In many cases this causes a barrier to communication with those not familiar with the language of the field".

As a student, if you're not very familiar with what a giro is, you have to spend some mental effort "translating" the word into something you're familiar with. And that mental effort and time takes away from understanding what the teacher might actually be telling you. By the time you've remembered "Oh, right, it's that forward-side-back-side thing", the teacher will have finished explaining some concept, and you'll have missed the explanation.

As a teacher, it's very easy to fall into jargon as a shorthand way of describing some complex concepts. Even when focussing on technique rather than steps, terms such as "Axis", "Grounded", "Intention", "Energy", "Core" and others can all confuse people. So unless you're actively trying to bamboozle your students, be aware that your students may well not be familiar with these terms.

So why use it?

Well, several bad reasons.

Showing off

"Ah yes, when I was doing a practica with Zotto in Canning at BA, he emphasized the importance of axis and intention with the volcada and the balanceo, especially in the salida, for nuevo non Villa-Urquiza styles."

For example.

Hiding meaning

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." ~ Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

Frankly, sometimes people use terms without knowing what they mean, because they've heard other people use those terms, and they don't want to appear ignorant.

Adding mystery

From a marketing point of view, using incomprehensible amounts of jargon seems to allow some teachers to develop mystique. If you've got a ponytail, speak in a thick foreign accent, and add an "O" or "A" to the end of your name, that also helps increase your rates.

So, I should never use jargon?

Actually no - there are several occasions where jargon works and is helpful.

If you're doing an entire class on a giro, it's reasonable to use that term, at least to a degree.

If you're discussing the complexities of an ocho with someone who's also familiar with that movement, it's completely reasonable to use the term.

Jargon is shorthand. If you're communicating with someone who you know is familiar with that shorthand, jargon is both useful and productive.

But if you are teaching, or you don't know the level of your audience (for example, writing an online article...), then it's a Thing Of Evil.

- David Bailey, 18th February 2010


The Glossary I've put on this site is - deliberately - English-focussed. Hopefully therefore it's as jargon-light as possible.

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