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  1. The specialized language of a professional, occupational, or other group, often meaningless to outsiders. See also:
  2. An often negative term for odd language of various kinds, including slang or speech perceived as gibberish. Adjective: jargony. See also:


From Old French, "the twittering of birds, meaningless talk"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Jargon is the verbal sleight of hand that makes the old hat seem newly fashionable; it gives an air of novelty and specious profundity to ideas that, if stated directly, would seem superficial, stale, frivolous, or false."
    (David Lehman)

  • "'Hygienic treatment' is funeral jargon for the temporary preservation of a corpse."
    (Jessica Mitford, The American Way of Death, 1963)

  • "Ours is the age of substitutes: instead of language, we have jargon; instead of principles, slogans; and, instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas."
    (Eric Bentley)

  • Is Jargon Necessary?
    "Should jargon be censored? Many people think it should. However, close examination of jargon shows that, although some of it is vacuous pretentiousness, and therefore dysphemistic, its proper use is both necessary and unobjectionable."
    (K. Allen and K. Burridge, Forbidden Words, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006)

    "When per is used to mean 'for each,' 'by means,' 'through,' or 'on account of,' it is appropriate (per annum, per diem, per head). When used to mean 'according to' (per your request, per your order), the expression is jargon and should be avoided."
    (Gerald J. Alred, et al., Handbook of Technical Writing, 8th ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006)

    "Generally, when people use jargon not to communicate but to impress their audiences with their importance . . . or use it to announce membership in a group, communication suffers and the jargon can quickly degenerate into something close to the twittering of birds."
    (W. Lutz, "Jargon." Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992)

    "The truth is that wherever people speak a language, they find ways to modify it according to set rules. A cryptic idiom may be developed for the purposes of a game, to enable a literary activity, to facilitate a new society or to implement a political project. Its secrets may be innocuous or harmful. What is certain is that speech can always be both a basis of understanding and a means of distortion."
    (Daniel Heller-Roazen, "Learn to Talk in Beggars’ Cant." The New York Times, August 18, 2013)

  • Film Jargon
    "I was instructed long ago by a wise editor, 'If you understand something you can explain it so that almost anyone can understand it. If you don't, you won't be able to understand your own explanation.' That is why 90% of academic film theory is bullshit. Jargon is the last refuge of the scoundrel."
    (Roger Ebert, “O, Synecdoche, My Synecdoche!” Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 10, 2008)

  • Diner Jargon
    "Pigs in a blanket sixty-nine cents,
    Eggs--roll 'em over and a package of Kents,
    Adam and Eve on a log, you can sink 'em damn straight,
    Hash browns, hash browns, you know I can't be late."
    (Tom Waits, "Ghosts Of Saturday Night")
Pronunciation: JAR-gun
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