Jeering at Jargonitis

Sooner then you think

The IT industry is currently being afflicted with a brain-eating virus for which there is no known cure. The medical term for this highly contagious disease is Argotism. The incubation period of the disease ranges from one to eight hours, at which time the subject becomes highly, and permanently, contagious.

Citizens are warned that those who attend technology conferences are most at risk for contracting Argotism. The most virulent strains of this disease are usually found in the keynote presentations. Those in the IT industry are being warned that if they must attend these breeding grounds of pestilence, to bring blindfolds and earplugs to reduce the chance of infection.

The primary symptom of this incurable malady is a tendency to speak for hours at a time without uttering a single comprehensible sentence. A secondary symptom is the uncontrollable desire to display incredibly complex visuals using the most sophisticated technology available.

At first it was thought these visual manifestations of the disease were actually the patient’s failed attempts to overcome his or her impaired ability to speak plain English. However, extensive content analysis of more than 10,000 visuals has uncovered no evidence to support this hypothesis.

Scientists are baffled by how the illness spreads. Common methods of disease contagion include inhalation, ingestion and physical contact. But Argotism appears to ignore these vectors and is, instead, spread through the auditory and visual systems. The World Health Organization (WHO) admits that this method of infection will lead to a global pandemic unless a cure, or at least a vaccine, is found.

Early onset of the disease is identified by a subject’s inability to raise a hand above their head and voice the words “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Could you please explain it to me?”

In the advanced stage of the disease, subjects repeat the phrases which first infected them, but which they in no way understand.

In the interest of preventing spread of the disease, I won’t represent any of the more “active” – and dangerous – phrases in this article. Luckily there is one phrase which has lost most of its ability to infect, which will serve as an example. Please read it carefully and if you sense the urge to use it in conversation in the next 24 hours, please report immediately to your nearest medical facility. The phrase is “New Economy.”

While it is possible to become infected after a single exposure to Argotism, it usually takes repeated exposure before the subject demonstrates that he or she has become a carrier.

A recent WHO study found that being in the presence of a manager when first exposed to Argotism greatly increases the risk of infection. This increase in risk factor is assumed, though not yet verified, to stem from natural reluctance to admit ignorance.

While there is no known cure, there is evidence to suggest that those already infected with Curmudgeonism, or those equipped with a technological advance known as a “B.S. Detector” (origin unknown), are highly resistant to all known strains of the Argot virus.

There is another home remedy proving useful in isolated cases. Prepare a small tape recorder loaded with the sentence, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you just said. Could you explain what you meant by that?” When a presentation drops into incomprehensibility, you know the presenter is falling into an acute attack of Argotism and is entering their most contagious stage. Before you lose consciousness, press the PLAY button on the recorder and hopefully this will jolt the presenter back into a temporary state of comprehensibility, perhaps long enough for you to escape into the hall.

de Jager is an inoculated Keynote speaker and management consultant. Contact him