Professional slang

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 30, 2007

In Reply to: Professional slang posted by Probe on March 30, 2007

: Professional slang?

: Are buzzwords a part of professional slang? Or is there any difference between these two terms?

: Thank you.

Since professional slang is a phrase, I'll give you whatever answer I can. The usual word for professional slang in general is jargon. It is possible that there's a use for terms like "doctors' slang," or "legal slang," but in those cases and most others jargon is preferred, such as "medical jargon" and "legal jargon." One reason for the preference is that the vocabulary specific to professional needs are real language, even if they sound slangy. If you are a doctor and need something "stat," one syllable beats five hands down.

Buzzwords can be slang or jargon, but can also be just ordinary words getting a big run for some reason. They are used by some large part of the ordinary community, which may or may not include professionals, but generally have a limited shelf-life. Buzzword itself is a sort of buzzword, coming from the idea that when large numbers of people are talking about something, there talk is like a buzz in the air. "What's the buzz on Sanjaya and AI?" That can be translated as What do the gossips, the chatterers and fans say about Sanjaya as an AI contestant?" In this case there's no buzzword involved unless there's a lot of talk about his type of hairdo.

Buzzword doesn't necessarily imply something from popular culture, however. Words and phrases that suddenly show up in financial columns, business writing, and diplomatic deals can be buzzwords. I'm not a good source for examples. I can't be sure, for instance, if the bell curve was for a time a buzzword, or reverse discrimination, or things like that. Perhaps others can do that for us if they care to.