A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2018 Nov 30, 18:05 -0800
Tony, you wrote:
"It is THE problem because all the words we use - we invented ourselves, the words did not come from the outside. This apparatus (the words and their meanings) evolved along with the humanity and its' culture. We just agreed to understand certain sound sequences (or intricate ornaments on paper etc) as meaningful messages."
Yes, of course. The history of words and languages, the stories of etymologies and transitions from dialects to official languages and so... is all wonderful stuff. We can also control words in some contexts (like science and math, see below).
"It is not possible to explain, say, the tensor mathematics to a layman before he masters all the basics of Arithmetics etc."
That's right. Sometimes precise language is essential. Science and mathematics are the paramount examples of this. In these fields, words have meanings that can contradict their senses in "common" language, and this can be a major hindrance to learning --but there's no way around it. Consider the concept of a "function" in mathematics, or the idea of "work" in physics. These can confuse beginners, but that's life. As I have already described, the word "zenith" in celestial navigation is in this category. The terminology is essential and cannot be avoided. In addition, these words, in their senses in math and physics, remain largely invariant over time, except and until the community as a whole agrees to small changes. Jargon, by contrast, is language that acts like technical terminology, and gets "thrown around" like technical terminology, but is not essential to the subject.
"Why Frank wants to - arbitrarily - label some terms as "jargon" (which to my ear has derogatory connotation) - I do not understand."
There are times and places for throwing around technical terminology. But if you are trying to communicate with a wide audience, you should avoid it. Surely that makes sense to you? And please understand, I have had many years to experiment with ways of explaining the concepts and methods of celestial navigation. I am speaking from extensive experience AND a deep technical understanding of the math and science as well. Jargon, far too often, is used by newcomers in celestial navigation to create a barrier to outsiders, and sometimes it's used to create an illusion of understanding. Avoid jargon whenever possible.
"The real problem here is in the improper use of words (the "zenith" instead of the "culmination" or "highest altitude reached by a celestial body", etc)."
I believe I was abundantly clear on this in my last message. What's the problem here? Are you just upset because I explained to you that culmination is not a good alternative?? Apart from being un-necessary jargon, it's a word that's largely unknown even to practical navigators.
"By the way, in my language the "altitude" word has very strong smell of mountaineering to it."
Yes, that's an interesting issue. The word altitude also has confusing connotations sometimes in English. For example, if you start a conversation about aerial celestial navigation, you will at some point refer to measuring the altitude of the Sun, and at another point you will perhaps refer to the altitude of the aircraft and its effect on dip and refraction. That's two completely different meanings for the word "altitude". How do you avoid that confusion? Well, clearly, you have to talk through it. When you first describe measuring the Sun's "altitude" with a sextant, you have to explain carefully that we're talking about its apparent position in the sky, and for the right kind of audience, you can immediately enhance comprehension by referring to it as "angular" altitude measured in degrees. For another audience, you might start off describing the angle as "elevation" above the horizon and then switch over to altitude as the students become more comfortable with the concept. Elevation is a good intro alternative in some cases because some students are familiar with the idea of pointing a gun to some elevation angle above the horizontal.
You finished with this:
"In that aspect - everything IS jargon."
Nope. That simply isn't true. You know what I mean by jargon, I am sure.