Now comes Quid Plura recommending a Chronicle of Higher Education essay (paywalled) by medievalist Christine Schott with a sound observation.
I am reasonably capable of dressing up my theories about material culture, genre, and self-writing in fancy vocabulary, but I maintain that they are no smarter for being decked out in academic regalia. And when it comes down to it, I don’t want to write scholarship that my friends and nonacademic peers cannot understand.That, we see at Quid Plura, might be the way to win friends and influence people.
Schott plucks a painfully abstruse passage from a 1993 book about literary theory and boils it down to a lovely, clear, informative sentence—a rare skill. I’ve considered the rebuttals by humanities scholars who claim that specialized fields need their own patois, and since my career isn’t at stake, I can say that I find those defenses bunk; you can dazzle your colleagues with rarefied terms without writing in a style that makes the rest of us laugh out loud.A special vocabulary, like any other tool, evolves for a reason. Here's Alfred Marshall, on one such reason. "If there is any general statement which we want to bring to bear so often, that the trouble of quoting it at length, when needed, is greater than that of burdening the discussion with an additional formal statement and an additional technical name, then it receives a special name, otherwise not."
That's a wholly different purpose for creating a technical term than using one as erudition-signalling.