A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2018 Nov 30, 19:43 -0800
Brad, you wrote:
"Our specialized field is filled with technical terms, not "jargon"."
Hey, not bad. You have found a jargon-y way of referring to "jargon".
"Using those technical terms permits clarity of communication."
In the right context, it certainly can. The example of "zenith" on the Marion-Bermuda web page is a good example. Used in its precise technical sense, the word adds meaning as no other word can. Tossed around in the metaphorical sense of "any old high point", it mis-communicates in a celestial navigation discussion.
Jargon, or "technical terms", can also be used for obfuscation and the creation of barriers. Use jargon sparingly. Use it when necessary. That's just my advice based on my many, many years interaction with newcomers to the subject of celestial navigation. Now it may well be that some NavList members and readers don't give a damn about communicating with newcomers or with anyone except people who are perceived as "fellow experts". If that's the case, then slather on as much jargon as you like. Really pour it on there...
Next, you spoke the name of your holy book:
"Dutton's was used at the US Naval academy and its authority in terminology and procedures is unquestioned. "
It's never a good idea to think of anything as an "unquestioned authority". Myself, I wouldn't be caught dead referring to Dutton or any other book as "unquestioned". Dutton's Navigation is a textbook. That's all it is. You place far too much faith in that textbook, and in authority figures and authority texts and authority in general. Did you ever read or hear Richard Feynman (a reluctant Nobel laureate and a most brilliant independent thinker --but never an unquestioned authority!) talk about what he learned from his father about bird names and also about epaulettes on uniforms? It's great stuff and directly relevant here. Here's a video "Richard Feynman - Names Don't Constitute Knowledge". It might as well be titled "Jargon Is Not Knowledge". And here's a video retelling his story about uniforms and authority (alas, not in his voice).
"If some wish to invent new terms or otherwise redefine old terms, all they need do is publish their own book and have it accepted as the reference book on celestial navigation."
First, who do you think is trying to invent new terms? As for your advice to write a book and have it accepted as "the reference book on celestial navigation"? That's like asking someone to write a book and have it accepted it as a "frumious bandersnatch". It's an imaginary beast.
Just to give one example of a productive author who has made an impact in celestial navigation education, consider Hewitt Schlereth's excellent books on the subject. They're targeted at beginners --beginners who are not in the military. No one would ever count any of them as "the reference book" on the subject. But that's not a negative. None of them are bandersnatches either. Creative works can have great impact without being tarred with that dreadful label of "unquestioned authority".