Jargon

In 1977 I was on one of my summertime retreats from study. It was my routine to come home to the Boston area and split my time between working on orthopedic floors at one of the large downtown hospitals and sailing. At that point, I was close to finishing a Phud, and it was a joke among friends in the medical and nursing professions that I’d soon be Dr. Carreras – although not in medicine.
OK, I lied; I worked, sailed, and partied. I partied a lot. One night I wound up in my usual bar on Cambridge Street arguing with some people I had known from undergraduate work in anthropology. At some point, some of the staff from the orthopedics floor where I was working joined us. In less than ten minutes, language became an issue. One of the nurses accused one of my anthropologist friends of speaking in jargon, “please just speak in English.” Another friend made a counterargument that the nurses and the surgeon talked in jargon.

We’d been having a good time, so I began translating for the two groups being that I could speak both “languages,” so to speak. Within an hour, both groups, intelligent folks, began picking up parts of the other jargon. The babble at our tables now sounded very little like American English, and to use a linguist’s term seemed to be a lingua franca, a creole, or a Pidgen.
As the evening proceeded, the talk at our table grew more animated, a bit loud, and seemed to waft throughout the barroom. At last, one very drunk gentleman approached us and stated, ” I don’t give a flyin’ f**k what you speak at home. But you’re in America now! So quit your damned gobbledegook, and speak English!” After this, he lurched away.

There was only the briefest of pauses before our conversations picked up where they had paused.

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