Jargon is specialized language specific to times, places, groups, and settings. Wherever you happen to be in communication with others involved with your particular activity, you will encounter and use jargon. I am a teacher, and I use words like spiraling, chunking, scaffolding, phonemes, WAIS, and dysgraphia in my daily professional communication without even thinking about it. More specific to my own workplace (and therefore unintelligible to teachers at other schools) are such terms as LA, 86 Lounge, The Structure, and red binder.
Jargon is an important and necessary facet of regular communication. It allows us to communicate quickly and accurately with others who have similar fields of experience because we don’t have to stop and explain the meanings of our terms and may instead focus on whatever the primary purpose of our communication is. In this way, jargon unites people who already know the terms.
On the other hand, jargon can also be a major source of separation and alienation. New teachers to my school, for example, must be taught the weird meanings of words we use specifically on my campus, or else they will be missing important details relevant to their jobs. A new teacher can easily be overwhelmed and alienated by too much of this at once. Luckily, I work with nice people who want communication to be a unifier and not a divider.
Not everyone is this lucky. Some people intentionally use jargon so that others don’t know what is being said, or else they use it in order to make what they’re talking about seem difficult and special. The world of higher learning is famous for this. People who have knowledge and are charged with imparting it on others often want to make it as challenging as possible. Whether this is an intentional goal or not varies, of course, from person to person, but there is a reason almost every textbook you’ve ever read was a pain in the neck to get through.
This is why I try to avoid the grammatical mumbo-jumbo as much as I can. The … for Dummies series of books and the similar Complete Idiot’s Guide to … series do the same thing. By removing as much jargon as possible, the books communicate knowledge in small, bite-sized, easy-to-understand pieces and are therefore much more effective as text books. I am a proud owner of several such books and don’t consider myself a Dummy or an Idiot for enjoying them as much as I do.
In your communication with others, be aware of your use of jargon. For people who know what you mean, it is a powerful tool. For people who might not know what you mean, it’s as powerful a weapon.