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Re: Idioglossia

Posted by Lewis on March 31, 2006

In Reply to: Re: Idioglossia posted by pamela on March 30, 2006

: : : : : : : : I was at a meeting this morning where the following conversation took place: Person 1: "we're running out of tarmac to meet the triple-d (triple dee?)for public comment". Person 2: "What's the triple dee, again?", Person 1: "30th April". (Person 3): "No, no the deadline's been extended ..." I didn't get a chance to ask. I've googled every sound-alike variation "triple dee" I could think of but apart from a radio station and a surprising number of people called "Triple D" have found nothing. Any ideas?

: : : : : : : My guess (and it's only a guess; I haven't heard this before) is "drop dead date," the ultimate deadline.

: : : : : : Thanks for that, Bob. I looked up "drop dead date" and notice it seems to come from the legal area which fits in with the agenda of the particular committee. I rather like the phrase - but "triple d" seems neither useful nor decorative. Pamela

: : : : : triple-d does not have widespread usage in the English legal system. it may be in USage, but not UKage.

: : : : : I think the "drop dead date" has been used in the context of deadlines for offers to be accepted, but that doesn't make it widespread and many people would look bemused at the mention of 'triple-d'.

: : : : : L

: : : : Saying "triple D" is a result of the urge to have a secret language that baffles outsiders. Twin babies have idioglossia, the shared babble of a self-invented language; cockneys have rhyming slang; each profession has its insider jargon. There's a pleasure to being "in." When it becomes deliberately unintelligible to listeners (cryptophasia) it's often also rude.

: : : Could this have something to do with what I believe is a newspaper publishing term -'drop the dead donkey'? This became the title of a popular UK TV series and is related to deadlines. Googling doesn't throw up anything other than many references to the TV program and certainly doesn't give a clue as to why the phrase was used as the title. Anyone work/ed in the newspaper industry?

: :
: : As Bob says, 'There's a pleasure to being "in." ' I'm not sure I'd go all the way with his next phrase, "When it becomes deliberately unintelligible to listeners (cryptophasia) it's often also rude." Yes, with a "but." Teenagers and young adults certainly like to speak in code, and some of the time it can seem quite rude. I'm not sure, however, that the concept of rudeness is understood the same way between adults and sub-adults. SS

: Ah! "Drop the dead donkey" is another contender, and was a suggestion from someone else I asked (although they were guessing). Someone who has posted at IMDB ( claims that the title means "stop focussing on an old story and start focusing on a new one", but, like James, I coudn't find anything other than references to the TV show. Maybe "Drop the dead donkey" and "Drop dead date" are related?

"Drop the Dead Donkey" was a reference to changing one trivial news story for another at short notice - animal stories are often used as relief after more serious news stories in broadcasts and it is a reference to the news being fast paced and often tasteless.

Back to jargon - some thoughts

IMO "Jargon" is language primarily intended to exclude rather than clarify. I read a good book called "The Jargon of the Professions" which I think I picked up in connection with the Plain English Campaign - odd that a lawyer should believe in Plain English, but I regularly see how confusing forms are for the general public and how "obscurantist cant" can be used to give the appearance of knowledge without any substance.
Life is difficult enough without going out of ones way to confuse people about important things.

At the risk of incurring wrath, the Social Sciences (Sociology in particular) are full of unnecessarily complex expressions for well-understood words or concepts - I believe simply because they want to up the obfuscation level to suggest that what they are describing is difficult to understand rather than (quite often) "The Bleeding Obvious". I studied sociology as part of my degree and the only part of it that law students found difficult was keeping a straight face in tutorials/seminars: little did we know that our witness of attempts to use language to make the simple seem complex was great training for the age of "political correctness" to follow.

Since then, I have found that occupations with a sociological base have endemic over-complexity of language. I think it is due to the practitioners fundamental insecurity in the intellectual vigour of the discipline and the general lack of practical application of that 'knowledge' that produces that result.

Despite accusations to the contrary, lawyers generally use words carefully and for precision (or deliberate vagueness if the situation demands).

In a way, jargon fits "the medium is the message" idea - it is not that jargon is used as useful shorthand because that is not really jargon, but is merely "technical-talk" - but that the use of it determines who is 'in' and who is an outsider.
contrast this with Polari - the camp showbiz/theatre/circus slang used to talk under the noses of outsiders (such as theatre managers/producers/strangers in bars) - that slang is a coded communication being used with purpose rather than for its own sake to exclude.

"Jargon" is often used to disguise lack of discrete knowledge or simply to appear impressive and exclude. With jargon, it is not that it is useful code, but the act of excluding or confusing is the main purpose, not what is conveyed within that code.

Jargon is the Del Boy Trotter in the "Only Fools and Horses" of the professions.

I'll not say what Trigger represents...