The Importance of Jargon

Jargon has its place in the English language. It allows people in various fields to conduct conversations about matters that impact outsiders without necessarily letting them in on what is going on. You see this with doctors, police, computer techs, and even in search and rescue.

Now, my instructors in the lofty towers of the Defense Information School will tell you jargon has no place in your work, but they are stodgy journalism professors (who, incidentally train the best journalists in America) with their own set of jargon (Says one to another, “You should see my pica pole.”)

Peace River Search and Rescue has a code system for informing each other about the status of searches.  These codes are arranged to help the team communicate delicate information while keeping it confidential from any listening ears that do not yet need to know the information being broadcast. This system, especially the codes for living or dead persons, is designed to be very user friendly, even in the event of an “oh shit” moment.

Recently I was part of a search and was shocked to come around a bend, in the dark, and see our missing man. I was working with another handler and she confirmed he was our missing person and ran to meet him. As the flanker (assistant), it was up to me to call in our find. My gears were spinning and getting no traction due to the overflow of adrenaline – I found a missing person! I say this to excuse the inexcusable.

I called in our find – and used the wrong code words. I accidentally told all listening he was dead.

I’m told there was a considerable intake of breath by all listening.

Our quick-thinking leader decided to confirm what I had said.

“So, you’re talking to him now?”



I’m told there was a considerable amount of relaxation at this point.

Jargon, it has its place. If you’re going to use it, use it correctly. I’ve worked in several jargon-intensive fields and I get quite a laugh from those who try to look knowledgeable by using jargon how they think they should. Don’t be that person.


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