Funny You Should Say That! A Jargon of Our Own

Funny You Should Say That! A Jargon of Our Own

Let's hear it for the oral verbalizers.

By John Cadley

I think I know how jargon started. In prehistoric times, when humankind was still communicating through grunts, a tribe of hominids discovered that its particular form of grunting was not comprehensible to members outside the group. This seemed to give them an edge in the social circles of the day. They were treated with a certain deference and they rather reveled in it, sometimes even speaking nonsense on purpose just to see their neighbors’ awed reaction.

Thus was born The First Law of Human Communication: If they don’t understand you, they’ll think you’re smart.

Of course, soon all the tribes discovered the trick, and before long the entire known world was populated with individual groups trying to out-grunt each other in the most incomprehensible ways.

In fact, even as grunting evolved into real language, the concept of baffling outsiders with tribal lingo has survived. Today we know it as “jargon,” the form of speech employed by competing tribes of doctors, lawyers, insurance salesmen, government workers, military personnel, architects, plumbers, musicians and so on to make them look smart and you look stupid. I’ve often thought it would be an interesting experiment to put, say, a doctor, a lawyer and an accountant in a room, have them speak jargon to each other, and see whose head explodes first.

Be that as it may, the point is this: Every profession – and I mean every profession, right down to the grocery store clerk who asks if your purchase is part of a BOGOF (Buy One, Get One Free) – has its jargon, its own special way of saying, “We have a club and you’re not a member.” Every profession except one. Us! The communicators! The speakers! The language lovers! Everyone else gets to befuddle us, and we can only respond with clarity, eloquence and grammatical rectitude.

No more! To paraphrase Winston Churchill, this is a state of affairs up with which we will not put! If other professions can have their jargon, we can have ours – and we will, beginning right now.

For starters, we are no longer speakers, we are oral verbalizers. So when we give a speech, we are “orally verbalizing wordage in an outward direction.” We don’t just communicate, either. From now on we “impart, share, or otherwise disseminate information for the purpose of reciprocal cognition.” When we write, we “translate conceptual cerebrations into hard copy on a parallel plane in three-dimensional space,” and when we take care to use proper grammar we are “in compliance with the heretofore standard constructional norms of linguistic modalities.”

A word will henceforth be referred to as a CVU (Consonant-Vowel Unit), a sentence is an SLMC (Sequential Linkage of Multiple CVUs), and a paragraph is a MMCSHOSVOC (Merged Matrix of Combined SLMCs in Hierarchical Order on the Subject-Verb-Object Continuum).

Oh, yeah – and it all ends with a Terminal Point Indicator (a period).

How would this work in real life? Let me give you an example. Your auto mechanic informs you that you need a new half shaft, and then waits to see your eyes glaze over with the look of the totally clueless. But you refuse to be shafted, as it were. As he begins to prattle on about circlips, joint housings, retainer rings and transaxles, you interrupt.

“Excuse me, I missed a CVU. Could you repeat it?”

“A what?”

“A CVU.”

You act like he should know this – just like you’re supposed to know what a half shaft is. There follows a moment of dead air in which the poor man realizes he’s been out- jargoned. This has never happened to him before. He’s stupefied. Now you go for the kill.

“You know – a CVU. It was in the middle of one of your SLMCs when you were orally verbalizing on the half shaft and you used a non- standard linguistic modality which resulted in a lack of reciprocal cognition on my part.”

There is a silence seldom heard in an auto mechanic’s shop. Wrenches have stopped wrenching, hoses have stopped hosing. The mechanic looks around at his employees, who are staring back as dumbfounded as he. It is a moment of truth that our automotive expert did not anticipate on this bright sunny morning with his cheese danish and coffee black.

“I’ll tell you what,” he says. “Why don’t I just fix the darn thing? That would probably be the simplest thing.”

As he bends to his task, you wave to the gawking lookers-on and leave the garage with a single thought swimming deliciously through your head: Revenge is sweet. 

John Cadley is an advertising copywriter for an agency in Syracuse, New York. Reach him at