An unexpected punch

I recently came across this blog post from JSTOR, The Tangled Language of Jargon. It seemed at first to be the usual intellectual, slightly dry analysis of the topic.

But although the post lulls the reader with the usual explanations, familiar to any writer, of Germanic roots versus Latin roots, it then goes somewhere unexpected. It is political (in the original sense of relating to the government or the public affairs of a country). It discusses social disconnection, manipulation, and power.

It packs an unexpected punch.

The Tangled Language of Jargon – JSTOR Daily

What could the many synonyms in the English language possibly have to do with social disconnection? And what does jargon, a kind of language that nobody likes but can’t stop, won’t stop using, have to do with manipulating meaning? Perhaps nothing at all… or perhaps they can be stark reminders that words aren’t all created equal.

The JSTOR post reminds me of one of my favorite quotes on language:

If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. Hence there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.


Are you a writer? Remember that what you do matters above everything.

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