Archive for the ‘Jargon’ Category

Verbal magic in the workplace

June 2, 2017

Today’s Dilbert:

Your people are distressed about the cell-like connotations of cubicle? Easy solution: change the term, to something that sounds more substantial. Yes, they’ll still be working in cell-like spaces, but they might feel better about it. Apparently, the magic of euphemistic, elevating jargon can sometimes work even if the audience knows that it’s jargonistic invention.

The Jargon Matrix

April 12, 2017

Yesterday’s Dilbert takes us into a dark world of language, the Jargon Matrix:


The Matrix, but with jargon from the world of technology businesses.


Name play in Basingstoke

June 12, 2016

From my English correspondent RJP, this tradeperson’s van, photographed on the street:


Flat Boy Skim is a bit of complex name play on Fatboy Slim. Well, you have to know who Fatboy Slim is, something many people do not. And then: what might Flat Boy Skim have to do with plastering? For that, you have to know something about the technical jargon of plastering (which I did not, until I looked it up; well, I correctly noted that a good plastering job should be flat — smooth — and I assumed that boy was just there for the name play, but skim was a mystery).


Two Dilberts

December 21, 2015

From the 8th, featuring Alice:


and from the 20th, featuring Wally and the pointy-haired boss:



Tech talk

February 21, 2015

Today’s Dilbert, in which the pointy-headed boss asks for investment advice:

The boss is fine with colorful figurative jargon in the investment world, but balks at the term diversification because of the spelling challenges it presents.

Employee qualities

January 17, 2015

Back in November, Business Insider posted a piece, “A Leaked Internal Uber Presentation Shows What The Company Really Values In Its Employees”:

One page of the document defined which qualities all Uber employees are expected to possess. Those qualities, or “Uber Competencies,” are: Vision, Quality Obsession, Innovation, Fierceness, Execution, Scale, Communication, Super Pumpedness

Business Insider picked out two of these, super pumpedness and fierceness, as especially worthy of mockery. And now Scott Adams’s comic Dilbert has exploited these in two strips, from yesterday and today.


Action Item, Professional Superhero

October 2, 2014

From Martin Kaminer to ADS-L on the 28th, a link to this wonderful 2000 comic strip by Neil McAllister (apparently the only extant episode of Adventures of Action Item):


Mostly about jargon, but it also raises questions about discourse organization, in this case about how business meetings are organized.


for Mod values of Adj

August 22, 2010

At the last minute, a weekend cartoon. From Scenes from a Multiverse:

Two points. First, “for infinitesimally small values of huge”. (Later, “sausage party”.)


Short shot #46a: graduatize

May 11, 2010

More educational jargon, from Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words #689, 5/8/10:

LEARNING TERMS  An unfamiliar word, GRADUATISED (GRADUATIZED if you’re American or very formal) appeared in an British article. It refers to a profession or occupation, the entry to which has been restricted to university graduates. The article addressed the problems of school leavers, who are increasingly finding it hard to get jobs for this reason. Educationalists have used GRADUATISED, its verb GRADUATISE, and its linked noun GRADUATISATION, at least since the early 1970s, though it’s still a term of art in the profession and is rarely found outside specialist or scholarly publications. A rare sighting of the noun was a comment by the (then) British PM Gordon Brown in the Evening Standard of London on 30 April 2008: “This is one of the wider problems with today, the graduatisation of the political and media worlds. So many people are now excluded because they left school at 16 or 18.”

Educational jargon tends to get very bad press (though both educational rubric and graduatize can be defended on the grounds that they are not only compact but also useful in their context), and innovations in -ize (verbings by derivational suffix) have been reviled for a long time, so graduatize gets a double dose of scorn. And, in fact, if you’re not familiar with it (as I was not, until Michael put this entry in WWW), its meaning can be very hard to guess even in context. But you can see its utility.

Short shot #46: rubrics

May 11, 2010

From the April 10 issue of The Teaching Professor:

Two Reasons Why I Still Use Rubrics
By Kevin Brown, Lee University, TN

I began using grading rubrics for essays several years ago, and I was initially rather unhappy with how they worked. I found I was giving grades that I wouldn’t have given when I graded without the rubric. Often the grades were higher, but not always. I gave enough lower grades to cause me to notice those as well. (link)

The piece goes on to use just plain rubric — the short version of grading rubric — throughout (without explanation or examples; the readers are supposed to know the word already). I could work out roughly what rubric meant in this context, given OED2’s chain of senses for the word:the color red; a heading printed in red, or a passage so marked; a heading in general [note to etymological purists: no printing headings in black, or any color other than red!]; an injunction; a general rule. So a rubric in the teaching context is presumably some sort of rule for assigning grades. But it sounds like something more specific is intended. And so it is.

The word is teacher jargon (using jargon neutrally, for expressions used by a particular profession or group and not easily understood by others, usually serving to provide short reference to some concept important to the group). A rubric — the Teacher Planet site here has dozens of them, for history, math, social studies, and so on, even for the design of scavenger hunts! — provides a set of factors (each factor representing an expectation for specific knowledge, ability, or performance) and for each factor, descriptions for assigning a student to one of a certain number of levels. For the Scavenger Hunt Rubric:

Factors: Contribution to Group, Sites, Questions, Cooperation, Final Hunt Results

Grading for Sites: 5 Sites found are all relevant to project and good source for questions. 4 Sites found are mostly relevant to project and good source for questions. 3 A few of the sites found are relevant and provide a fair source for questions. 2 Few sites are relevant. Sites are not a good source for questions. 1 No relevant sites are included. Sites are not good sources for questions.

The descriptions require some judgment on the part of the teacher, of course.

So rubrics break down expressing expectations, setting goals, and assessing performance into a number of explicit factors for the purposes of grading. It would be interesting to see something about the history of the technique and its possible relationship to similar assessment tools in industrial, business, etc. settings.