An initial 4A N2...?

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Mon Jul 1 01:49:44 UTC 2002

In a message dated 06/30/2002 4:06:26 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU writes:

> if anyone publishes a book which employees must
>  learn words or terms from have those items "lost" their slang status
>  by that means alone?

I say yes.  If a word is jargon, it is not slang.  If an employer gives his
employees a glossary of words which the employees are required to use, then
the words in that glossary have become jargon.

A clarificaition:  a word can be part of the technical vocabulary of one
group, and therefore jargon as far as that group is concerned, yet be slang
to the outside world.  "Homer" was the only example I could think of.  A
baseball player is not unlikely to get into a discussion of the alleged
home-team bias of a particular umpire, and therefore finds "homer" meaning
"umpire biased towards the home team" as part of his technical vocabulary.
To the fan in the stands, however, "homer" is merely another, and not very
necessary, term for a home run.

The only other example I can think of is "pimp".  To the general public the
word means "procurer" and I won't take a stand on whether it should be
considered a slang word.  However, to a prostitute, "pimp" has the specific
meaning of "prostitute's boyfriend".

>  That "homer" (home-team favoring unmpire) is not slang is very odd to
>  me. It is not "necessary" in any sense except that those who deal
>  with baseball must know it. I think there is a confusion here of
>  slang which is slang but is jargon at the same time technical speech,
>  or jargon, which is not slang.

Yes, a word or term can simultaneously be jargon, within a particular group,
and slang outside that group.  See examples above.

A jargon expression may have started out as a slang expression, but have
since become jargon.  One example: sometime after World War II (I think in
the 1960's, but I haven't been able to track down the date) airplanes were
required to be equipped with transponders if they wished to fly in positive
control zones (in the US, any airspace over 18,000 feet).  I am guessing that
someone coined the term "squawk", as in "the transponder squawks a response"
or "I just got back the sqawk from flight so-and-so."  If my guess is
correct, then this was slang.  However, the FAA and ICAO (International Civil
Aviation Organization, a branch of the UN to which the FAA answers for
international flights) both added the word "squawk" to the glossaries of what
air traffic controllers and pilots say to each other.  For example, to tell a
pilot to turn off his transponder, the controller says "Stop Squawk", or to
turn on the altitude reporting portion of the transponder, "Start Altitude
Squawk."  Hence "squawk", once slang, is now jargon.  (To tell the pilot to
report his altitude verbally instead of by transponder, the controller says
"Say Altitude".)

                  - James A. Landau
                    systems engineer
                    FAA Tech Center (ACB-510/BCI)
                    Atlantic City Int'l Airport NJ 08405 USA

P.S.  An air traffic control story, perhaps apochryphal:

Controller:  SAY ALTITUDE
Pilot:          ALTITUDE
Controller (annoyed): SAY ALTITUDE
Pilot:          ALTITUDE
Pilot reports his altitude.

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