• jargon •
Pronunciation: jahr-gên • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Words defining a professional register of speech, e.g. journalese, legalese, etc. 2. Lingo, argot, a substandard or otherwise marginally comprehensible speech.
Notes: Today's word comes with a plethora of lexical relatives. We have four serious adjectives, jargony, jargonal, jargonistic and jargonish. There is one serious personal noun, jargonist, and two tongue-in-cheek personal nouns: jargoneer and jargonaut.
In Play: Jargon has the unique feature of being difficult to understand: "Susan Liddy-Gates isn't often invited to soirees since her small talk is so riddled with legal jargon, no one can understand her." Technical jargons are not the only kind: "Rhoda Book's prose is so laden with arty jargon and heavyweight expressions that it is virtually incomprehensible."
Word History: Today's Good Word's deep origins are mysterious, but in Middle English it was spelled gargoun and gergon alongside jargone. It was borrowed from Old French jargon, gargon "bird chirping, prattle, chatter". No one has followed the relation of this word with gargle. Such research will discover that English once possessed a verb jargle "to make a harsh sound, chatter". We will not pursue the matter here. We find Spanish jerga, Portuguese jargão, Italian gergo, and French jargon—all with pretty much the same meaning, so the word must come from Latin. The Germanic and Slavic languages have variants of the same word, obviously borrowed from French. (Avoiding jargon of all sorts, let's now show our gratitude to our long-time friend Albert Skiles for sharing yet another surprisingly Good Word with us.)