Readers, Writers, Texts


On Jargon, presented by Jonathan Meades

The word “jargon” can be traced to 14th century Old French, but the actual origin is unknown. “Jargon” is derived from the fourteenth century term for “twittering or warbling of birds,” which in turn has the root ‘garg’ from which also stem such words as “gargle,” and “gurgle.” The original meaning was “to make a twittering noise or sound,” but by modern standards, it has three derivations. One current or modern definition of jargon is “an outlandish, technical language of a particular profession, group, or trade.” Another meaning is “unintelligible writing or talk.” Yet another definition is “specific dialects resulting from a mixture of several languages.” Since the reoccurring problem with jargon is that only a few people may understand the actual terminology used by different groups, this may explain its origin from “twittering” which, of course, would be misunderstood by most people. 

However, a ‘jargonaut’ (one who studies jargon) may claim that jargon, in its most positive light, can be seen as professional, efficient shorthand, and was developed out of convenience rather than intentional trickiness. In this section you can find out all about this use of language and ask the question, is use of jargon a way to unite members of the same group, or a way to divide and exclude through language? Begin with Jargon, then read a couple more of the following articles to clarify your thoughts on this matter:

Class Activity: IB Jargonaut

As an IB student, you are part of a very specific community of people (IB Learners) who are exposed to and start using a specific jargon that helps to define this community. Think about all the IB terms that you have come to know and love (?!) – the first example being the name of this course: Lang and Lit. The words mean something to you, and your teachers – but people not in this group might not understand what these terms mean. Collect all the examples of IB Jargon that you can think of – can you get to 20, or even 30 pieces?

Learner Portfolio

Write a one-two page journal entry in which you present your thoughts about the use of jargon? Is it a necessary part of efficient communication, or simply a way to exclude and baffle others through a particular use of language?

You might like to take a look at this great piece of student writing, based on her observations while in hospital for pneumonia (proving that, where there’s a will there’s a way to get your work done – even when you’re sick!) to give you an idea of the kind of writing you could attempt.

Paper 1 Text Type Focus: Infographics and Instructional Posters

At the end of your course you will be asked to analyze unseen texts (1 at Standard Level and 2 at Higher Level) in an examination. You will be given a guiding question that will focus your attention on formal or stylistic elements of the text(s), and help you decode the text(s)’ purpose(s). Below are two sets of resources based on the theme of Medical Emergencies: Infographics and Instructional Posters. Although there are clear similarities, examine each group separately, noting down the various tropes of each text type. Add the texts to your Learner Portfolio; you will want to revise text types thoroughly before your Paper 1 exam. Finally, practice your paper 1 analysis skills using the sample text, a jargon-filled explanation of Starbucks’ commitment to sustainable farming:

Body of Work: Our Food, Your Questions

“Language is never trustworthy, but when it comes to eating animals , words are as often used to misdirect and camouflage as they are to communicate.”

Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals

Nowhere is language more slippery than in the fast food industry. Macdonald’s is famous for it’s creative and effective marketing: marketing that relies upon the company’s ability to ‘misdirect and camouflage.’ Study their website in light of the article you have read by Jonathan Safran Foer: Eating Animals. What evidence can you find in Mcdonald’s slick website to support his point of view?

Towards Assessment: Individual Oral

“Supported by an extract from one non-literary text and one from a literary work, students will offer a prepared response of 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of questions by the teacher, to the following prompt:

Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the texts that you have studied. (40 marks)

IB Language and Literature Guide

This website would make a perfect text to use in this assessed activity. The named author would be ‘McDonalds.’ You could explore the Global Issues of: Beliefs, Values and Education or Science, Technology and the Environment. The specifics you might like to discuss (including the way language can be used to both reveal and conceal the truth, attitudes towards nature, consumerism) can be complimented by any number of literary passages. For example:

  • Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Nervous Conditions – in chapter 1 and 3 we see how making food connects Tambu with her culture.
  • Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – show how, in Act 1, Scene 1, the characters all view the word through the prism of business and enterprise.
  • William Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads – make a comparison of attitudes towards nature as expressed in this website with those in his poems you have studied.
  • J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Son – look at how, in part one of the novel, food becomes increasingly symbolic of survival for Jim and those in the converted cinema prison.

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