Monday, April 28, 2008

NaPoWriMo #28: jargon

This week's prompt at Read Write Poem is "jargon". In 1999 I enrolled as a history major at the University of Washington and found myself immersed in a field with its own specialized vocabulary. At the same time I was working at the City of Bellevue in their transportation department, and a huge part of my job was to write newsletters to residents about transportation projects being constructed in their neighborhoods. It was a weird time because on the one hand I had to translate very technical engineering jargon into everyday language at about a sixth grade reading level, and in my after hours I was slogging through obtuse terms like "hegemony", "milieu", and "historiography" and learning how to bandy them about in the many, many, many term papers I was required to write.

I felt like my writing had a split personality, and rather than completely compartmentalize, I started to fuse the two styles. Not that I wrote about the hegemony of transportation. Or dumbed down my research projects. Instead, I tried to resist the urge to be as verbose as many of the historians I was reading; I kept my papers as pithy, interesting, descriptive and fluid as possible, using lingo only where appropriate and necessary. I tried to think about writing my papers in such a way that people would actually want to read them, rather than making myself sound stuffy and academic. Mostly this worked (I got excellent grades and one professor in particular gushed about my writing), but my boss did on occasion send back drafts of my newsletters, telling me I needed to tone down the vocabulary.

History’s Failing

I doubt the Aztecs knew
they were falling to
Spain’s inexorable hegemony or
if the curved-helmed conquistadors
were aware of their driving
force in a colonial milieu
that might have shifted opposite
if not shaped by smallpox
what does it matter for
Hernán Cortés Pizarro
Bernal Díaz del Castillo
Francisco López de Gómara
Bernardino de Sahagún
are on more spines than
Fernando Alvarado Tezozómoc
Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin
Cuitlahuac and
especially Malintzin
the failing of history is
no terms translate hegemony
into the reality that every one of
Tenochtitlan’s thousand upon
thousand now anonymous casualties
had a face and a name.


jimmmaaa said...

Chicklegirl, very interesting Jargon poem. A little sad too.

gautami tripathy said...

Very deep..