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BRITARCH  February 2000

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Subject:

Re: Plain speaking

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Date:

Sun, 20 Feb 2000 20:55:35 -0500

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Hey all,

In CE's message CE states " No, but if you don't continually use strings
of words with four or more syllables, you won't stand a chance at getting
a 1st or a PhD."  I find this very dismaying since I plan on continuing
my education and aiming for a PhD.  I understand the use of academic
language, but I think that if you can produce a work that gets your point
across while being concise would be just as impressive as reading a
dissertation loaded with 'jargon'.  In some ways it sounds like academia
is trying to build a fence to keep out the 'unworthy' than inviting in
those that will help to expand the field in some way.  In truth I'd much
perfer to be able to have a conversation with my mother about my choosen
professionand her understand me than to not be able to talk to her about
what I love to do.


And to Chris Cumberpatch's comment  "Do we expect the general public to
buy them?  I don't think that this is the case.  Site and project reports
are the raw material from which syntheses and summaries can be written as
and when required or desired." I agree.  

To the Taylors comment "Archaeological reports are written for the
profession and not for a wide readership: why is it then that we expect
the general public to buy these things?"  Site reports are not what we
wish the public to buy but if we can't translate those reports into
something the general public can read then why are we doing this at all? 
The purpose of studying in a field is not just to inform other members of
academia but to advance the knowledge and understanding of everyone.  The
general public is from whom we receive our grants and to a great extant
our employment opportunities -- if we lose their support because they
feel as if we are a non-productive unit, then where does that leave us as
professionals.  I would never recommend my mother to read a site report
(they're boring& too technical for someone only slightly interested or in
some cases to those of us who are highly interested), however there are
archaeological books produced that I would love my mother to read because
they are interesting as well educational.  There are many reasons to make
our work understandable to the 'layman' one of the most important is that
it captures the fire of future talent and brings them home to continue
our work sometimes long after we are gone.  

This thread seems to be saying not that we shouldn't use technical terms
but how is the best way to make the technical language more
understandable by our supporters not trained in the profession.  In many
ways it is like translating Shakespeare or Chaucer, we know both are
written in English so why is it so hard to understand?  The change in
language is constant because it is fluid, what was common to us a decade
(or more) ago is now no longer in use.  For example, how many of us still
say "groovy",  I certainly don't.  Sometimes simplicity is the easiest to
understand, as the infamous Fox Mulder once said, "I don't know, but it
ain't no duck", was clearly understood by Scully and the audience.  

Robin


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