Friday, November 29, 2013

Is "Academic Jargon" A Cliche?

On the Times Higher Education website, Belinda Jack derides academic language as cliche that inhibits imagination:
As a writer I am, needless to say, a supporter of books and reading. I am an interested party. But if we are to avoid being caught up in self-contained linguistic prisons where everything that is said is, in effect, repetition and cliché, then we have to attend to words and their efficacy. Academic jargon can create just such a closed space in which the initiated talk to one another and there are far too few reality checks. Peer review, rather than acting as a control, can further strengthen the in-language and in-thinking. The pressure on academics to contribute to the research excellence framework can be yet another threat to the independence and integrity of the academic as writer.
I've read lots of criticisms of academic jargon online and railed against it myself as a grad student (you have not lived until you've sat through an afternoon of professional music theorists drone on about, well, anything really), but I'm starting to wonder if "academic jargon" is itself becoming a cliche that inhibits our ability to helpfully talk about improving dialogue within the academic community and with others.