I’ve often remarked (read: mocked) on the way cops and servicemen use bloated, strange language to express relatively simply concepts. Cops are the worst. For example:
CopSpeak: At that time, we affected entry to the residence in order to secure the premises and manage the developing crisis situation that was developing. I made contact with the suspect in question and applied force in order to neutralize the then-current threat.
Translation: Things were getting violent so we broke down the door. I beaned the bad guy on the head with my Mag Light to stop him from gutting me with a Ginsu knife. Those fuckers are sharp, you know.
When it comes to the military, I understand the purpose of specialized language. Everyone needs to be on the same page in a fight – lives could be lost in a simple misunderstanding. In fact, I think MilitarySpeak is kinda cool – “Roger that Tango Fox, Hellfire over and out.” (That’s cool, right?)
Jeff Barnett is an Iraq veteran who has recently returned to civilian life and is blogging about his readjustment. He also writes for the Home Fires blog at the NY Times. I particularly enjoyed his post on the disconnect between military and civilian language, “Of Marine Language” (Originally published on the Home Fires blog at New York Times Select site on June 26th, 2007). He spins an excellent narrative about how Marine language expresses a more orderly, hierarchical, and precise reality than CivilianSpeak.