Sunday, May 9, 2010

High Diction or Tauro-Scatology in Academe

It's a dark and dirty secret that in academe you can either sound more impressive or disguise a poverty of thought by using a high, elevated diction, as opposed to neutral or informal diction. High diction often is polysyllabic in word choice, refrains from slang or colloquialisms, and uses a refined, elegant vocabulary. This is the choice of language used by national- or state-level politicians (other than those deliberately cultuvating an image of being one of the people), lawyers, college administrators and professors, clerics, and corporate CEOs or public relations specialists. These forays into high diction can sometimes provide word choices that are almost reflexive in nature, like occupational buzzwords.

The idea is to sound lofty; all the better to defend one's personal or corporate practices. After all, often the thrust of everyday discourse is not to advance epistemology, but to snowball others into adopting a particular view.

In informal or low diction, that is called working a con. Obviously, no proper-functioning academic with administrative ambitions would say it that way; no, they would call it public relations or even winning hearts and minds.

In my opinion, the incessant use of academic buzz words is, to be unkind, a con as well. In that way, they can justify ethically questionable practices (such as underpaying graduate assistants and teaching adjuncts by saying that the wages are in response to market levels), gild the lily on changes being made (crafting a new policy or developing a new paradigm), or establishing a faux moral standing (sometimes universities, when embracing diversity, may be better described as feeling up diversity.)

Another special sin of the academics is in the abstruse generation of very forbidding-sounding titles for your paper or thesis. Nothing causes a Ph. D. more shame or anxiety than encountering something in her or his subject area that she or he knows nothing about! Especially the lazy (some profs are lazy), or the dinosaurs among the full professors. Therefore, if you have written a lightweight paper or a real puff piece, then by all means give it a purposely complex title. This will guarantee that no one will read it; yet you will get credit for having produced a publication.

Not that I ever do that in real life!

However, I set about on an exercise to write as obscure and opaque a title for an article as possible. Here's my effort:

"Deconstruction of the postmodern systemic paradigms in the mutuality of interersonal dynamics."

Do you have any idea regarding what this might be about?

Good. I don't either.

For the same reasons, giving a lofty title for a mental or physical disorder makes one sound, well, so professional.

Calling a condition 'traumatic encephalopathy of pugulists sounds' more impressive than calling it 'being punchdrunk.'


Anonymous said...

Hi Angel. Your writing is a hoot!

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Thank you.