Jargon vs. Lingo

When you talk to a cyclist about cadence, the peloton or refer to somebody on her team as a domestique, they know exactly what you mean. Saying cadence instead of ‘the rate at which you pedal’ signals that you know the sport and also saves your breath.

All those words above are part of a cyclist’s lingo – their insider language. It’s not the same as jargon.

I once had an ‘expert’ in the field of process automation refer to how self-healing scripts were the hottest development in the field. Intrigued, I clicked on his article, only to find that what he referred to as ‘self-healing’ was merely what we developers already called exception handling – a script’s ability to throw a pre-defined error and end execution safely when an error occurs. Exception handling was as old as software itself.

The purported expert had used jargon to bait me into clicking on his article. However, it indicated that he didn’t know the lingo, and his obvious incompetence.

When you use the lingo, you signal to a group that you are an insider. When you use jargon instead, people realize that you’re trying to sound smart despite being on shaky ground.

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