Legalese and Other Jargons

Jargon: A set of words to define the meaning and relationship between objects, persons and actions in a specific environment or context. Not to be confused with slang.

The best known type of jargon is the special form of communication used by lawyers. In English it has its own name. It’s called “legalese”. In German they say “Juristendeutsch” and I’m certain equivalents exist in almost any language spoken on this world. Hardly anybody else understands these people when they talk business. Interestingly enough, this is true to some extent for most specialized professions and for all special interest groups, such as for example, physicians, software developers, personal coaches, zoologists, dairy farmers, model aircraft enthusiasts, or amateur astronomers (you can add entries to this list forever, if you like).

Each jargon can be considered a language of its own, which must be learned and practiced by the speakers. So, what is your profession? Add your tech speek to your language skills! Of course, technically, a jargon always
remains only a fraction of a natural language.

As I said in the definition above, a jargon is a subset of words with a special meaning to members of the same community. The same words may or may not be used in “general” language. Or, they might have an entirely different meaning when used in another context.

Actually, jargons make communication easier. But only among insiders. In a certain technical context, terms are defined in such way that they become unambiguous. You can think of it in terms of mathematical formulas: A + B = C, where A, B, and C have specific defined meanings. Or compare it to meteorology: The global weather is way too complex to predict. Especially for an extended period of time. Therefore, forecasts are usually made for smaller areas and for only a few days. The more limited the region and timespan, the more precise the forecast will be (most of the times…). Technical jargon is reduced in a similar fashion. It is a segment taken from the general language. In the specified subject-matter area, ideally, one term has one meaning and nothing else.

All this must be kept in mind when transferring a text from one language to another. And texts must be treated differently depending on whether the readers are members of the same technical community or outsiders.

every target group has its own language


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