The Faculty Lounge throws down a challenge to legal academics: can we tell people what we are talking about in words that are easy to understand?
Cedar Riener (follow him @criener), an enterprising psychology professor, has begun a Tumblr, Up Goer Your PhD, collecting doctoral dissertation abstracts written in layman's terms, as described above. His project is a riff on this brilliant layman's diagram of Saturn 5, otherwise known — when one is limited to the most common 1,000 words — as "Up Goer 5." People using Up Goer to explain a variety of other complicated concepts can be found on Twitter at #UpGoerFive. Many Up Goer projects turn out to be hilarious, and they're fun to create, too.
But there's a serious point here as well. Jargon (including technobabble, neurobabble, and other babbles) can be efficient shorthand when conversing among other experts. But let's be frank: it can also conceal some serious B.S., not only from our readers, but also from ourselves.That's right, and I spend a lot of time trying to stop my own tendency toward jargon in thinking, in teaching, and in writing. This is not easy when your world is dominated by code sections, acronyms, and hyperlexis. I suspect I fall short most of the time, in fact, I just did, five times in that last sentence alone. Sigh. In my defense, "tax" is not even on the list of the "ten hundred most used words."