Re: unusual language

Steve Krause (krause@MIND.NET)
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 09:16:54 -0700

>Beth Baldwin writes:
>>"Unusual language" is being used to promote the image of the intellectual
>>elite. John Swales would say that this is typical of discourse
>>communities; language is used to "exclude" those who do not belong to the
>>inner circle of scholarly elite who are versed in this kind of language.
>>Unfortunately, their skill is questionable in this case because I still
>>contend that there is no emperor under these clothes. At least in the
>>sentence in question, the writer/s have gotten so carried away with
>>language that meaning is lost.

Hmmm.... do you mean like the disorienting language automechanics use to
talk about the workings of that thing that's underneath the hood of my car?
(tells you how much _I_ know about that discourse...) Do you mean the
jargon filled language/tools/measures chefs use on the cooking shows I like
to watch? Or perhaps you're referring to the discourse shared among
surfers to describe various waves and surfing practices, or the language
used to describe rap music. Maybe you're talking about the different
elitest language used to describe the labor of farming or coal mining or
working on an assembly line, language that I suspect many of us would find
confusing or alien. And so forth.

So, the question I have is what does "elite" mean here? Seems to me that
all jargon is pretty much context-specific, and that those of us not within
those specific context(s) are often left in the dark.

As to the specifics of the _Space and Culture_ conference here: seemed
pretty clear to me what this was about. I imagine that this is a journal
that would be interested/take essays from a wide variety of disciplines
from scholars interested in how "space" and "place" effect our lives. The
description says as much:

" _Space and Culture_ is a cross-disciplinary journal that fosters
>the publication of reflections on a wide range of socio-spatial arenas such
>as the home, architecture, urbanism and geopolitics. We encourage the
>application of contemporary theoretical debates in cultural studies,
>discourse analysis, and post-colonialism to research on sexuality, migrant
>and diasporic identities, virtual identities and virtual citizenship."

I imagine studies/presentations on diverse issues like how museums are set
up, how "public space" becomes a part of "private space," how "cyberspace"
thwarts issues of "real life," how our sexualities are practiced
differently in different environments, etc., etc. Clearly, this is not a
journal that will ever find a huge audience-- this is definately an
"academic" journal that does not pose much of a threat to such "clear" and
"non-elitest" (?) publications as _Time_.

I guess part of me has sympathy with what Ann (I believe it was Ann...) was
asking-- what does this mean?-- and I applaud her for asking the question.
Better to do that than to just sit on your hands, which is exactly what a
lot of our students do in similar situations. But I think it's pretty
irresponsible for folks to say "well, this doesn't mean anything."
Clearly, _Space and Culture_ is assuming a philosophically and
theoretically savvy audience, but it seems to me that since the majority (I
think) of the people on this listserv either have or are seeking a graduate
degree in English (eg, Doctor of PHILOSOPHY), it ought to be clear that it
is not entirely empty and we ought to spend at least a few seconds trying
to understand it before dismissing it out of hand.

Steve Krause * Department of English * Southern Oregon State College
1250 Siskiyou Blvd. * Ashland, OR 97520 * Office Phone: 541-552-6630
School e-mail: * Personal e-mail: