By Alan Graner
At a conference many years ago a physicist addressed his colleagues, droning on and on about Einstein’s theories. When the speech mercifully ended, one physicist came up to him and said, “Professor, you must be greater than Einstein himself.”
Puffed with pride, the lecturer asked “How so?”
“Well,” said his colleague, “only 12 people understand Einstein…but no one understands you.”
Down with sesquipedalians
A sesquipedalian (meaning foot-and-a half) is someone who uses long words.
We’ve all met them—people who like to throw around phrases like “desultory reading hebetates the brain.”
What they’re really saying is “I’m smart…and you’re not.”
They’re not interested in building lines of communication. They’d rather build their ego.
These linguistic Neanderthals appear everywhere: online, in articles, in opinion pieces, in white papers.
But their natural habitat is academic journals.
Academic-ese: the anti-communication
Ever try to read an academic journal, especially in your industry? I defy you to understand it. Their recondite, tenebrous prose is meant to impress, not communicate.
My theory is they use gobbledygook to hide the fact they have nothing to say, yet they must publish X number of papers to gain and maintain tenure.
According to Fox News http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/03/01/over-100-published-science-journal-articles-just-gibberish/, over the past several years scientific journals have published more than 120 papers that were pure gibberish. They were written by automated word generators using titles like “Simulating Flip-Flop Gates Using Peer-to-Peer Methodologies.”
Obviously these articles were meant to be satirical: academic humor at its anfractuous best.
Unfortunately there’s a dark side.
As a result of academic-ese, a discipline such as biology cannot communicate with another discipline such as nanotechnology. Breakthrough discoveries on, say, neurotransmitters in the brain that might allow nanotechnologists to leapfrog into exciting new territories, are never cross-pollinated.
That’s not very smart.
What are your thoughts?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For a public relations campaign that makes you stick out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at email@example.com. Or visit www.dsprel.com.