It has been quite a while since I read anything that made me guffaw this loudly.
Robert Weir's article Plain Talk for Plain Speech for Inside Higher Ed is a clever send-up of the stilted Lingua Academia that results in obscure, unreadable postmodern, post-colonial (pomo-poco) jargon.
He has formed the Society for Intellectual Clarity (SIC) and intends to launch a new journal, SIC PUPPY (Professors United in Plain Prose Yearnings). I've asked to be included on the editorial board.
People have been ranting against pomo-poco obfuscations since mo times (the pre-post-modern era.) My favorite rant on pompous, abstruse prose was written by George Orwell in 1945. His essay, Politics and the English Language is an essential manifesto for clear, eloquent writing and based on the following 6 rules:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
The examples Orwell uses to illustrate his points are delightful. Take this translation of a biblical passage for example:
In "modern" verse:
"Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."
"I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
One of my pet peeves is that some of my coaching clients have to jargonize their writing and publish via academic presses, rather than popular, lay presses, in order to impress tenure committees. Why are academic authors penalized for being widely read?