I'm a member over at IPS.SE and we are trying to think of how to word a new tag for questions. The phenomenon we are trying to describe is failure to convey an intended idea to a given audience because the speaker is using vocabulary that the audience happens not to know. The assumed context is that both parties share the same effective language (no foreign translations, obscure dialects, or regionalisms are presumed to be present). The issue includes use of technical jargon, but is not limited to that.

The most popular proposed tag (as of my writing this, at least) is 'communication-noise', referencing the idea of a signal-to-noise ratio. I'm being difficult in that I'm not convinced that's the best fit, but I can't think of anything that is clearer and similarly succinct.

The main elements to express are:

  • The intended meaning not being understood by the hearer

  • The reason for this failure being related to the speaker's word choice (that is, it's not a matter of blaming the hearer)

Ideally, the word or phrase chosen will not itself have too much jargon-ish character, but since the tag will come with an accessible description that's not a hard requirement.

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    Assume the writer is using the unknown vocabulary correctly, "failure to convey an intended idea to a given audience because the speaker is using vocabulary that the audience happens not to know" sounds like a description of jargon. That word has obviously crossed your mind, so you must have decided it doesn't fit. Why not?
    – Juhasz
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 19:27
  • 'Jargon' was also my first though from the Q..
    – TrevorD
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 19:29
  • @Juhasz Mainly because 'jargon' typically (as I use it) refers to domain-specific knowledge which an ordinary person would not be expected to know (like, say, 'deictic'). The issue described here includes more "ordinary" knowledge like the phrase "immune system", which I would expect a random English-speaker to understand.
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 19:33
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    I don't like the "noise" idea, which is about unnecessary not uncomprehended communication. "Jargon" is good and covers a broader area too. Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 19:42
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    Ok, so I went to IPS SE and at the moment there is a question about “semantic noise.” I see what you mean that it is not always “jargon,” but sometimes it is. It is not a matter of idiosyncratic word choice. The issue seems to be not reading the audience well. I cannot think of a single one or two words but maybe this observation will help other board members. We are looking for something that conveys the speaker not reading the audience well. Currently in the question I saw, the poster refers to this as “semantic noise.“
    – Damila
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 4:06

2 Answers 2


I think your word may actually be "Jargon." While as a noun it can mean:

Applied contemptuously to any mode of speech abounding in unfamiliar terms, or peculiar to a particular set of persons, as the language of scholars or philosophers, the terminology of a science or art, or the cant of a class, sect, trade, or profession.

the word can also be used as a verb!

transitive. To utter in a jargon; to prate about in a jargon.


Inadvertent Obfuscation feels like a good choice to me, if it's not too belaboured.

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