...and other important people

by Angus Bancroft and Ralph Fevre


In common with criminal fraternities, sociology has its own insider terminology or ‘jargon’. Because sociologists mainly write for other sociologists who already ‘know the code’ it can seem hard to penetrate. When you understand why they write as they do it becomes easier to understand.

Jargon is insider terminology. It should communicate precise, concise meaning. Jargon terms ideally mean much more than they say – but used carelessly end up saying less than they mean. It has got a bad name and has become a common insult because it can be unnecessary, involving swapping out common words and replacing them with trendy buzzwords, and it can be used to hide meaning and to bamboozle. Jargon can distil complex ideas into short terms, or can be used to exclude, to raise one’s status. Consider: asking you to ‘friend’ me is a quick way of saying ‘add me on Facebook’. Asking for a ‘soya latte’ is a quick way of saying a coffee topped up with hot foamed soya milk. Asking for it ‘Tall’ is an unnecessary way of saying ‘small’.

These Flashcards are a light-hearted but also useful decoding of common phrases and ways of writing in sociology. We hope it also shows why sometimes jargon is necessary and helpful.