Sunday, August 17, 2014

#807 that thing

How many things are in your world that you know what they are, but do not know what they are officially called?  We develop functional language that is known to us and allows us to communicate well with intimate family and friends, but becomes baffling when we involve others.

Some examples:

> When you say "get the salt out of the cupboard" and your don't mean the shaker, what do you mean?  What's the official name for "the big thing of salt"?  Box?  Container?  Morten's?

> I have a garment that is like a sweater, only silky and not knit.  I know it as "my black thing".  What do you know it as?  A silky sweater?  A black wrap (even though it has sleeves)?  An unstructured jacket?   I bought a new one in blue and was trying to describe it to someone but had to give up.

> I recently purchased a desk accessory that is a tower of shelves to hold projects.  I think its official name is a five-slot in-bin, but I call it "the shelves".  There are other literal shelves in my office, but people know what I mean when I refer to this.

Pay attention to your vocabulary for a few days.  To what have you given unique labels that work only for you?  Do you make it harder for visitors or a new colleague to become comfortable in your world?  

Jargon goes deeper than acronyms.  Be attentive to the ways you speak a private language instead of a universal one.

-- beth triplett

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