It struck me last night that language and communicating are so important, and yet so cumbersome and difficult at times. Not necessarily because the participants are unwilling, but more likely because of lack of common language and understandings…even if both parties are speaking the same language.

In my professional life, I am very fluent in education-ese. In moments and meetings filled with stress, it is very tempting and easy to launch into tirades using language that only another person in education-ese  might comprehend in order to (sadly) put the other person in their “place” for daring to question or wonder about something happening. I was reminded of this blatant arrogance and disrespect a few weeks ago when at a meeting one of the participants not fluent in education-ese but with a very high stake in the meeting looked bewildered at the rest of us and asked us to start over and to talk in plain English so she could understand. All of us involved were chagrined and rightly so.

Last night I was involved in a conversation about God and our relationship with Him. I’ve been attending church for less than two years, and I’ve taken significant “breaks” in the past twenty-one months…not attending for a four month stretch at one time. As we were chatting I realized that while I recognize certain words and phrases, I really have no understanding of what they mean.  It’s not that I can’t define the words either because I’m pretty handy with the dictionary. But as for the nuances of what the phrases really mean…it’s a language I don’t have enough background knowledge and experience in to fully comprehend. When I ask, knowing it sounds like a simple and stupid question, and there’s no response or another response using more church-ese, it becomes frustrating for all participants because the more it’s explained using the same language the less I understand and the more confused I become.

What I will say, though, is that last night, I had the full experience of how the person in my meeting felt, and I intend to do everything I can to make sure that is not the normal experience for anyone participating in meetings at work anymore.

2 thoughts on ““-ese”

  1. Isn’t it funny how language can be used to talk past people? Sometimes, it is used as a weapon–or it’s used to weed out the “others” (people not like us!). As for the experience at your church, I’m sorry to hear that you experienced that: there does seem to be an evolution in the approach of modern churches to the way they use language.

  2. It can definitely be used for either of them. I think that any organization can fall into the “language-ese” issue. It’s human nature, in my opinion, to develop language-specific phrases and acronyms within groups.Hopefully, it is used more to encourage, build up, and educate than to harm. It is certainly that way with my church most of the time, thankfully.

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