Bob Shell: Jargon Overload

Artwork: Milt Ward. The Alphabet Series, Copyright 2020

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020


Jargon Overload


George Orwell wrote, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear.”

To which I’ll add my own statement. ‘Nowhere in the US Constitution is there a right to not be offended.’

One of my favorite magazines is Poets & Writers, a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to be a wordsmith.

But the September/October issue made me feel let down. I read an essay titled ‘Return to the MFA’ by Namrata Poddor, MFA being, of course, the Master of Fine Arts degree that many consider essential for a successful writing career (I don’t believe that and don’t have one, but that’s another story).

As I was reading this otherwise thoughtful essay, I tripped over a linguistic hurdle. I consider myself pretty up to date on jargon, but it threw me when she talked of ‘LGBTQIA+,’ which I’d never heard of.

Back when I was first studying to be a writer, I was taught that the first time you introduce a term that might be unfamiliar to your readers, define it. I always tried to do that in my writing whenever I used technical terms, and I know my readers appreciated it.

I knew, of course, what ‘LGBTQ+’ stood for, but ‘IA’? I had no clue, so I asked a good friend on the outside who puts up with my questions. She didn’t know either, so she researched it for me. Turns out the ‘I’ stands for ‘intersex,’ for which she could find no definition. I have no clue, still, what that’s supposed to be.

The ‘A’ stands for ‘asexual,’ persons with no interest in sex. Personally, I doubt such creatures exist. For hundreds of years we were told that Catholic clergy were asexual, but we saw how that turned out!

Besides, wasn’t the ‘+’ in LGBTQ+ supposed to make it all-inclusive? Keep adding letters and symbols and pretty soon it will take a whole paragraph just for the abbreviation!

Further along, Ms Poddor says that ‘BIPOC’ is an “important revision’ of POC. Huh? Bisexual? I was lost in undefined jargon land again.

Turns out this means ‘Black Indigenous People of Color.’. Does POC not already include Black? I thought POC was just an updated version of ‘CP,’ as in NAACP. This latest revision does not strike me as ‘important.’ It strikes me as profoundly silly. Would my Cherokee ancestors want to be called BIPOC? I’m sure they would not.

Later, reading my latest issue of THE WEEK, my favorite news magazine, I came across a story reporting that ‘Generation X,’ those twenty to thirty year olds, feel that putting periods at the ends of sentences is “hostile.” I’m not joking, the article really says that!

One of the problems for those who venture to translate ancient languages is that they hadn’t invented punctuation yet. Readers just had to intuit where one sentence ended and the next one began. Punctuation was a major step forward in human communications. Do we really want to go back to the way things were before its invention?

The purpose of language is communication, the transfer of complex ideas from one mind to another. On this planet, only humans do it at the level we’ve achieved. Without language, we’d still be at the level of apes living in trees.

Until recently, the only thing BLM meant to me was Bureau of Land Management, that overblown federal agency that controls most of the empty land in the American Southwest, whose pistol-packing agents used to regularly hassle me when I was doing photography on ‘their’ land, even though I wasn’t breaking any laws or rules, and the land belongs to all Americans. (One officious idiot even argued that the ‘no shooting’ rule on sections of BLM land included ‘shooting’ photographs!)

So now it’s ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Well, of course Black lives matter! So do lives of every other color. ALL lives matter, and I’d venture to amend that to ‘ALL LIVES MATTER EQUALLY.’ Isn’t equality what everyone professes to want? Yet, I’ve read that wearing ‘ALL LIVES MATTER’ is racist. Huh? That’s racist how?

Like almost all Americans, I’m a ‘purebred mongrel,’ a mix of multiple lineages. The ancestry I know about includes Irish, Scot, German, and Cherokee, but I’m sure there are others. Should I have T-shirts printed saying ‘MONGREL LIVES MATTER?’ Maybe we should all just, regardless of ethnicity, wear T-shirts reading ‘MY LIFE MATTERS.’


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read Bob Shell’s, first essay on civil war, click here:

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *