Thursday, September 8, 2011

OK, You Know the Jargon, We Get It...

Knowledge of "specialized language" can be useful, or.. well, not useful at all.
from the Dilbert website - strip for 9/8/2011 - http://dilbert.com/strips/
Jargon, or discourse specific vocabulary, can be help you pass into gated discourse communities in the same way a secret password can. For example, if you use words like "reify" and "discursive" and "panopticon" frequently and correctly, you may notice the atmosphere becomes warmer and friendlier at our gathering of post-(insert term of choice here) scholars. However, if you use the wrong term at the wrong time, or drop the wrong name - your shibboleth will identify you as an impostor and will chill the air around you until you slink away in to outer darkness.

What is true for a circle of post-x scholars also holds true for groups of NASCAR fans, Trekkies, Vegans, Democrats, Republicans, and Business Leaders. Being fluent in the vocabulary of your discourse community can open doors for you, establish your credibility, and ensure you a place at the table of discussion.

Outside these circles, however... please, in the name of all that is holy, DROP THE JARGON and communicate clearly with your listeners in mind!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ethos for The Uber Wealthy

I recently attended a large conference where a number of very famous speakers were on the agenda. The conference was designed as a motivational event for area business people, community leaders, etc. Each of the speakers was known for some attribute or accomplishment. That is to say, each had a unique appeal of "ethos" to the audience.

(Annie Olson, in her webpage at LeTourneau University, describes Ethos as being "all about your credibility, reliability, and authority as a speaker or writer. Essentially, ethos is your reputation with your audience and the strategies you use to convince your audience that you should be believed or taken seriously.")

One of the speakers was Steve Forbes. I anticipated that his ethos might be questioned by some who saw him as just the son of a very rich father who left him a thriving financial empire. This concern had not escaped Mr. Forbes. He opened his talk with something like the following:
The best piece of advice I can give you regarding success is this: Choose rich and successful parents!

Forbes practiced wise rhetorics here - by acknowledging the perceived objection, and by dealing with it up front so he could move on with his speech.