The first gift I ever received from the mister was the 1944 edition of H. W. Fowler’s A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. This is an incredibly fun reference work that offers definitions, etymology, grammar, and Fowler’s personal opinions about general usage. He’s a curmudgeon, but his love of words is endearing, and we’ve spent a good deal of time chuckling over various random passages in the book. Here’s Fowler’s take on jargon (spacing and punctuation preserved from the original):

Jargon is talk that is considered both ugly-sounding & hard to understand : applied especially to (1) the sectional vocabulary of a science, art, sect, class, trade, or profession, full of technical terms (cf. cant, slang) ; (2) hybrid speech of different languages ; (3) the use of long words, circumlocution, & other clumsiness. (1926/1944, p. 307)

Coming soon will be excerpts from the sections on hackneyed phrases, pedantic humour, and ill-advised italics (all actual subject headings).

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