Jargon and Archaeology

Stephen Johnston (JOHNSC92@IRLEARN.UCD.IE)
Mon, 28 Mar 1994 19:31:09 GMT

Bonnie Blackwell hits the nail squarely on the head.

Jargon is by its nature exclusionary, and is particularly frustrating when it d
isguises relatively straightforward ideas and concepts behind what havebeen ter
med "poly-hyphenated monsters"by one archaeologist (archaeological theory being
a field where jargon breeds at an exponential rate).

I find myself endlessly aggravated by the perception that a long/obscure word s
omehow transports its user to a higher plane of intellectual development. In m
y own area of interest (archaeology) the last few decades of disciplinary intro
spection has thrown up a huge range of "-isms" which serve to restrict a debate
which concerns all archaeologists to the few who have the time to practically
learn another language. The argument that jargon facilitates communication fall
s on its face when its use excludes the bulk of those concerned from the debate
that that very jargon is supposed to be "helping".

The problem is compounded when users plainly, but not explicitly, take a jargo
n word to mean different things. My colleagues will shudder when I mention tha
t most mis-understood of all buzz-words, "post-processualism". Tell me that*th
at*phrase has helped our dicipline any. Before my head is ripped clean off of
my body, I should make it clear that I'm not implying the uselessness of any o
f the approaches which have been termed "post-processualist" (far from it!), bu
t rather the wildly incompatible meanings which that umbrella-term has been ass
igned by different practitioners (compare Hodder's interpretation with Binford'
s..!). I think I'm digressing...

Hmmm, think I'll scurry back off to ARCH-L before I get lynched...

Stephen P. Johnston *
johnsc92@irlearn.ucd.ie *
Postgraduate Student, *
Department of Archaeology, *
University College Dublin. *