Jargon – a club or exclusion you decide?

If you read my last blog entry about Galloway or Gabanna or both you maybe saw this one coming.  It is about the use of jargon.  I have always had a thing about jargon but over the past few months it has been really getting to me again and I have been doing alot of thinking about why we use it.  Is it to make us feel that we belong to a club?  Or is it to exclude others?  Or is it simply as humans we like to be part of a club and feel that we belong and we don’t mean to exclude others from the lingo we use in our particular club?

Jargon exists wherever you go and what ever you are part of work wise or other.  I am taking three examples here as they are personal to me not because they are any worse than any other but simply as examples to show how jargon is a way of every day life.

The first example is my previous employer VisitScotland.  In my previous blog I mentioned that when I was working for the Borders Tourist Board we had alot of in-house jargon which for new members of staff was really rather confusing especially when we didn’t explain it to them and left them to figure it out for themselves which lead us to think we were talking about Dumfries and Galloway when we referred to D&G and a new member of staff to think that we were talking about Dolce and Gabanna.  As a local Area Tourist Board or ATB as we called them we were not alone on this jargon it existed throughout all of the area tourist boards and the then Scottish Tourist Board or STB as it was called internally.  Other examples were Argyle, Stirling and the Trossachs which was called ALLST clear as mud yes?  Or the best one TIC’s which was common language and I then used in everyday life to very confused faces.  It stood for Tourist Information Centre but why not say that rather than this secret lingo?  Times changed and we all became VisitScotland so did that stop the jargon?  No VisitScotland became VS and each department had their own individual lingo.  It really hit home for me once I had left and attended a meeting there where the jargon all internal came fast and furious and I felt like I was in a foreign country as I had just translated one part of the discussion they were on to another with more jargon and it was easy to get lost.  I don’t think that VisitScotland is worse or better than many large organisations but it is a good example of how unless you are part of that club you can be left feeling excluded and in worst cases stupid as a result.  In reality people within the organisation are not aware they are doing it and are not doing it to exclude they understand so assume that others do too.

Another example of an organisation which has a whole different language is the Church.  I have been brought up since I was a baby going to Church so I understand all the great and wonderful jargon.  But I have for a very long time wondered why it is necessary? Jesus was not a man for jargon and I suspect if he was in the average church he would be hard pressed working out what was being said.  Jesus’s whole ethos was to speak plainly and clearly so everyone understood even if they didn’t like what was being said.  Over the years since we have created a new language just for Church which is not spoken anywhere else.  “O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood.  To every redeemer.” A small part of a favourite hymn of mine I confess but what does that all mean for the average person not in the club?  And it is not hard to see why anyone entering this particular club for the first time must wonder what they have come into and may feel that in order to understand they need a translator!  It has become particularly clear to me with our kids.  Kids say what they think and like things to be clear and I have first hand experience of being asked what exactly hymns are trying to say.

Now lest you think I am a hypocrite I am going to have a look at my own area of work too.  This blog has been going through my mind for the last couple of days and I was always going to include this part honestly!  But I laughed when I was listening to the Radio Scotland thought for the day spot today and the speaker mentioned Jesus’s point that before pointing the finger at others we need to first look at ourselves.

So I admit I am not immune to jargon and in my working world marketing is full of the stuff and like many industries you will get people who like to show how clever they are by the number of marketing jargon phrases they can have in the one conversation.  And when I was younger I confess I did think when I understood these conversations it showed how I was really good at marketing.    I have changed from this view as I have realised that though at marketing conferences, meetings and even in books that it is good that I understand my professional lingo I have a greater job in my working life.  That is to make sure that I use my marketing expertise to translate that into plain English for my clients so that they understand why it is beneficial to them and how they are going to make money from it.  An example of this is the famous marketing jargon of CRM.  Even when this is translated into its full name of Customer Relationship Marketing what does it mean and more importantly why do you need it?  It is a database that allows you to learn lots about your customers and as a result send relevant messages to them either direct mail or via enewsletters and this should result in customers feeling that you know them, understand why they buy from you which results in them buying more from you.  As I have mentioned many times in my blogs about my retail spending Boden is an excellent example in the main at doing this with me and Amazon is another example of a retail company who does this well too well in my case especially in the case of marketing books!  They know me only too well!  However this approach is not just for the big brands small companies can do this as well with similar results.  A hotel that we work with can expect to get up to ten times return on one direct mail piece even in the winter and a local retailer by keeping in touch with their customers gets customers into the shop to see new products that they might not have known was there such as new fitflsops or wellie boots.  So in jargon terms CRM does work well but how much easier is it just to explain that without the CRM jargon?

So in Bright Light Marketing we do try to be non jargon we don’t always succeed and yes we do quite often fall back on calling ourselves BLM on occasions.  We work in a business centre that is called Ettrick Riverside and many call this ER for short which is one that makes me laugh as I was a great fan of the US programme and always think we are referring to an emergency room!  Hence we never call it that.  But we do find that being non jargon is a challenge and we have to work at it constantly and I enjoy the challenge when I use marketing jargon when one of my colleagues asks but what does that really mean for the customer.  It is a good thing to do yourself or with the people you work with sit back and think of the jargon you use and then think what it would mean in simple English.  You will find you get a good insight into what you actually mean or you may find you didn’t really understand the concept in the first place.

So it’s up to you to decide.  Is jargon just hundreds and thousands of individual clubs or is it exclusion?  Or do we want to belong to clubs and don’t mean to exclude?  My feeling is the last that we want to belong and do not mean to exclude.  This was brought home to me yesterday when I had a small accident in my car.  My stalwart people who I wanted to cry on were not available bar my husband who was 40 miles away and acted as a good shoulder.  But I also turned to my on line community and appreciated the kind comments from friends on Facebook and Twitter more than I can say.  Facebook as they are friends I meet face to face I know them but the Twitter community too as I have met very few but feel friends with them and yes part of the club and the understanding they gave me made me feel belong .  But like all clubs Facebook and Twitter have their own jargon and we have had to produce a Social Media jargon page for our clients while telling them that it’s for them to understand what people are saying not to use it as that grows the jargon!

So in summary I can understand why we use jargon and I am certainly not immune to it and I completely understand why we all want to be part of our own clubs.  But I would urge you to think twice when you use jargon even for a day why don’t  you challenge yourself to a jargon free day? Or even better join my club for plain English!

Have a great weekend and thanks again for the support yesterday it meant alot.


About fionadranesblog

40 plus mum of two married with a mad cocker spaniel. Along with two colleagues run Bright Light Marketing a rural marketing agency who specialise in getting rural businesss noticed. www.brightlightmarketing.co.uk. Live in St Boswells in the wonderful Scottish Borders. Love books, walking and living life to the full here in the Scottish Borders though its sometimes a juggle!
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One Response to Jargon – a club or exclusion you decide?

  1. Graham Blair says:

    Yes , your absolutely right about the Jargon thing We all do it. Any way I am writing this from My apple Pc and I am loving it. It is incredibly easy to use not a lot of problems with devices , only a bit of difficulties with My Gps and a web cam so I can put my mug on line.

    Take care of yourself and the clan

    Love Graham

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