RhetoricLee Speaking

Jargon, Exemplars and Brene Brown

May 27, 2021


Jargon, sometimes called buzzwords, sometimes called slang, sometimes called bureaucratese, is basically non-standard language meant to bring into being non-standard thought. Jargon is inclusive and expands our collective understanding about the world when it is used carefully, defined, in tons of examples, and solves a problem by bringing a different awareness than other words in its orbit. However, jargon is exclusive and narrows our collective understanding about the world when it used in piles and lists (a rhetorical device known as amplificatio or sometimes enumeratio), when jargon is defined by referring to other jargon, when it is only supported by one or two perfect examples, and doesn’t seem to solve a problem by bringing more awareness then other words in its orbit.

Exemplar is a word for the model of the model, the most perfect example, the “for instance” that makes the theory work perfectly. If you’re using exemplars to illustrate your jargon then you’re making that jargon inaccessible by not letting it come into contact with the real world, which is messy and complex. The name of Brown’s exemplar is Suzanne (you’re going to be hearing a lot about Suzanne today).

Piling up jargon is great for creating brand followers and cult-like acolytes and people who will buy everything that comes out of your mouth and whose lives are exactly like yours. It also sells a lot of certified leadership coaching problems because it puts strategies for improvement out of reach, behind a wall of concepts and terminology and jargon, and requires we pay someone else to walk us through our own minds and lives. (FYI one of the first sentences out of Brown’s mouth in this episode is about her thousands of certified “Dared to Lead” trainers)

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