Definition of Jargon

Jargon is a literary term that is defined as a use of specific phrases and words by writers in a particular situation, profession or trade. These specialized terms are used to convey hidden meanings accepted and understood in that field. Jargon examples are found in literary and non-literary pieces of writing.

The use of jargon becomes essential in prose or verse or some technical pieces of writing when the writer intends to convey something only to the readers who are aware of these terms. Therefore, jargon was taken in early times as a trade language or as a language of a specific profession, as it is somewhat unintelligible for other people who do not belong to that particular profession. In fact, specific terms were developed to meet the needs of the group of people working within the same field or occupation.

Jargon and Slang

Jargon sometimes is wrongly confused with slang and people often take it in the same sense but a difference is always there.

Slang is a type of informal category of a certain language developed within a certain community and consists of words or phrases whose literal meanings are different than the actual meanings. Hence, it is not understood by people outside of that community or circle. Slang is more common in spoken language than written.

Jargon, on the other hand, is broadly associated with a subject, occupation or business that makes use of standard words or phrases frequently comprising of abbreviations e.g. HTH, LOL. However, unlike slang, its terms are developed and composed deliberately for the convenience of a specific section of society. We can see the difference in two sentences given below.

  • Did you hook up with him? (Slang)
  • Getting on a soapbox (Jargon)

Examples of Jargon from Literature

Example #1

Legal jargon used by Shakespeare

Why, may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he suffer this mad knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? Will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will scarcely lie in this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?

(Hamlet to Horatio in Hamlet by Shakespeare)

You can see that the use of words specifically related to the field of law. Lawyer, tenure, battery, recognizances and statutes are legal words used at the time of Shakespeare.

Example #2

Medical Jargons

Certain medications can cause or worsen nasal symptoms (especially congestion). These include the following: birth control pills, some drugs for high blood pressure (e.g., alpha blockers and beta blockers), antidepressants, medications for erectile dysfunction, and some medications for prostatic enlargement. If rhinitis symptoms are bothersome and one of these medications is used, ask the prescriber if the medication could be aggravating the condition.

(Robert H Fletcher and Phillip L Lieberman)

This passage is full of medical jargon such as nasal, congestions, alpha blockers and anti-depressants. Perhaps only those in the medical community would fully understand all of them..

Example #3

Modern legal jargon

In August 2008, 19 individuals brought a putative class action lawsuit in the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Facebook and the companies that had participated in Beacon, alleging violations of various federal and state privacy laws. The putative class comprised only those individuals whose personal information had been obtained and disclosed by Beacon during the approximately one-month period in which the program’s default setting was opt out rather than opt in. The complaint sought damages and various forms of equitable relief, including an injunction barring the defendants from continuing the program.

(MAREK v. LANE, Supreme Court Order)

Just check this statement given in a case by the Supreme Court. This is full of modern legal jargon starting with “putative, lawsuit, alleging, privacy laws, equitable, injunction” and so on that a layman could only understand with the help of his lawyer.

Function of Jargon

The use of jargon is significant in prose and verse. It seems unintelligible to the people who do not know the meanings. Examples of jargon used in literature are used to emphasize a situation or to refer to something exotic to the readers or audience. In fact, the use of jargon in literature shows the dexterity of the writer of having knowledge of other spheres. Writers use jargon to make a certain character a real one in fiction as well as in plays and poetry.

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