obfuscation (39)

Tue, 3 Jan 89 19:11:11 EST

Humanist Mailing List, Vol. 2, No. 475. Tuesday, 3 Jan 1989.

Date: Mon, 2 Jan 89 19:39:55 CST
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: obfuscation

Although all of us here are engaged in the humanities, we are
hardly a monolithic group.
Some are linguists, some biblical scholars, some literary critics,
historians, etc. Within our unity there is a tremendous variety.
And yet we still communicate fairly effectively.

Occasionally, though, I notice letters which employ terminology that
applies to a very specific humanistic discipline. Generally that
discipline has something to do with literature. I have speculated
often on why posters might write in this manner. Are they addressing
people in their own field (effectively excluding the rest of us)?
Or are they trying to display their command of certain terms and con-
cepts? Perhaps they are simply forgetting that not all of us have
the same extensive literary background.

Every one of us here could launch into jargon if he or she so desired.
Most don't. I believe that this is because our goal here is to unite
people of diverse backgrounds. In general, the effort here has been
to share knowledge rather than display it. Surely a term here and
there might be employed out of pure laziness or oversight. I have to
wonder, though, whether postings filled with literary conceits and allusions
really serve the common good.

-Richard L. Goerwitz