Posed as a query to ADS-L by Victor Steinbok on December 13th:

What do cracking, packing, bleaching, hijacking and kidnapping have in common? And I do mean all of them, not selective pairs.

Answer below the fold.

According to Victor:

Along with gerrymandering, these are bits of state redistricting jargon (in the US).

This ProPublica posting (“Redistricting, a Devil’s Dictionary”) has an informative discussion of all these terms, with maps.

But I was uncomfortable with Victor’s labeling these terms jargon, where I would have preferred technical terms. NOAD2 glosses jargon as, in effect ‘technical terms’, but with a twist:

special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand : legal jargon… • a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid.

The point of technical terms is that they reflect a conceptual analysis in some domain, in a way that would be difficult to express in ordinary language. They aren’t obfuscatory or show-offish or merely in-group signals, though these are common connotations of the label jargon, which is usually a put-down (hence the ‘barbarous, debased, or hybrid’ sense). Yes, they’re used by specialists and experts, but then such conceptual analysis is one of the things that these people are for.

And in fact the terms for various kinds of redistricting don’t have easy translations into ordinary language, nor are non-specialists likely to have thought about the different ways that redistricting can be used for political advantage. So the terms — almost all of them metaphorical extensions of ordinary language — are useful, even if unfamiliar to most people in these senses.


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