IN RULES that are to take effect next month, President Bill Clinton has ordered federal agencies and departments to use "plain language," rather than jargon, when writing official documents. Wherever people work with words, sooner or later they find themselves struggling with jargon. It's not all bad. Herewith some letters about jargon.
Arepurposing information" (taking material that was designed for print media and converting it to a Web-based format). A colleague wants it banned from our magazine; I insist it's used universally and is here to stay. What's your thinking on this neologism?
I'd never seen the word myself until you wrote, so you can't persuade me it's used universally. However, The Atlantic's new-media people assure me that they're quite familiar with the word. What's more, they say they can't give me any exact synonyms for it--the fundamental test for whether a neologism deserves houseroom or not. The most nearly synonymous word they could think of is recycling, except that recycling carries unfortunate connotations of garbage.
is jargon, but I don't mean that pejoratively. Within a specialized field, jargon like this serves as shorthand, so that, for example, you and your colleagues don't need to keep saying "converting print material to a World Wide Web format"; repurposing allows for a much more economical phrasing. I'm not eager to see it turn up in nontechnical contexts (say, "Courtney Love, once thought of as a singer, has sought to repurpose herself as an actress and a model"), but I agree with you that the word has its place.
Hproblem solve, as in "When you problem solve with parents and colleagues ..." Authors insist that my initial inclination to change the phrase to read "solve problems" skews their meaning.
What do you think about this usage? Bear in mind that these folks are teaching the people who will be teaching our children.