A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Frank Reed
Date: 2018 Nov 26, 12:46 -0800
Bob had asked:
"OR...it is the 21st century and we don't use "hack" as a verb. One might better say, "I synchronized my stopwatch with WWV.""
My strong advice: you absolutely should not use the word hack in any navigation context in the 21st century unless you are in the military and you are ordered to do so (or you want to pretend you are in the military!). Using hack in navigation was always about jargon. Jargon is language that isolates a particular user community from the wider world and also forms a barrier of entry keeping newcomers in their place until they pass the test of speaking like their elders. Celestial navigation was buried in suffocating jargon in the late 20th century, and that was a terrible shame, an un-necessary condition. Unfortunately, many navigation enthusiasts today get a cheap thrill from throwing around jargon precisely because this behavior walls them off from the rest of the culture and creates the pretentious illusion that they have knowledge instead of just peculiar words. This is not good. Knowledge is not jargon. So don't do it. Do whatever you can to communicate clearly. Avoid jargon at all costs.
Some jargon words in celestial navigation cannot be escaped. My favorite example is Declination. For students new to the subject without a background in astronomy (most students!), this is an odd word with no obvious origin and no connection to the concept behind it. What is the declination of the Sun? It is the latitude of the sub-Sun point. Or even simpler, without too much chance of misunderstanding, it is the "latitude of the Sun". So why say "declination of the Sun" when you can say "latitude of the Sun", employing a word that everyone who passed through grade school has already encountered a hundred times over and understands at least at a basic level? Mostly because it's ubiquitous in the subject. We can't escape "declination", this bit of jargon, because it's everywhere, unavoidable, inescapable. We should define it, emphasize its interchangeability with "latitude", and then use it. That's how I teach.
A number of other jargon words have such specific meanings that they can identify a concept better than any other. The word Zenith, when defined carefully and used in its strict sense, specifies a point in an observer's sky that is critical to understanding celestial navigation, and there is no succinct alternative. Zenith qualifies as good jargon because we need it, and there is no more familiar synonym.
Hack, as in hack a watch, is bad jargon. It is mere jargon. It's an empty word that creates a barrier to communication with no added value. And it is a word with an alternate meaning (in computing contexts) that overwhelms its significance in any navigation discussion. As you noted, the word "synchronize" is available, but if that is too much of a mouthful, then surely in the modern world we can just say "set". If you set your watch to the exact time, then you have explained what you're doing using a word that is part of normal English and easily translated into other languages as well.
If your goal is to communicate, and especially if your goal is to teach celestial navigation and expand its status, then avoid jargon whenever possible.
Clockwork Mapping / ReedNavigation.com
Conanicut Island USA