My first encounter with jargon was when I took sociology in school. By this time, even I – at fourteen years old – could recognise that some of the terminology used in social sciences had little to do with the application of the English language in normal circumstances.
Some of the roots of the language used in the social sciences can be traced back to Marxism (I myself am a Marxist), others from anthropology, other sciences and philosophies. People who work in the social sciences are not the only guilty parties of course; lawyers, doctors, accountants and many more have a somewhat childish and over-complicated approach to the English language.
Of course, this is encouraged in education when one is asked to produce written academic assignments; anybody who has gone as far as Further Education and Higher will have experienced this. To simply write clear, understandable text is not enough; jargon is positively encouraged.
Since I have worked in the community for many years, I have encountered a lot of – what I like to call – jargoneers (there I’ve invented more jargon). Government, local authorities and those who work in education (I myself have recently completed a Diploma for Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector) are particularly guilty of using jargon to excess, and this I have always felt is divisive. This is further exacerbated by an over-reliance on acronyms. All of this tedious behaviour results in barriers between jargon-users and those they are supposed to be serving. If I was more of conspiracy theorist I would suspect that this is indeed the plan; to separate the uninitiated from the elite in order to preserve established power-structures. Of course, I’m not nearly as hysterical as that, and so I think the answer is simpler. I think it that people who invent jargon are immature and that only very inadequate people need to use too much of it.
This always distressed me about Marxism. So many people I know have been put off reading his work owing to his use of very complicated language, although admittedly he had to explain even more complex economics. This defeated the object, and it is also true of many other left-wing writers and radicals, who have a tendency to over-complicate. Simplicity without patronising is far harder I think, and the message is what is important.
The use of jargon may impress colleagues and a few intellectuals, but it isn’t going to reach anybody else.