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Say What Now?

“Let it bleed and we’ll cut it,” the man said.

When you read those words, what is your initial reaction? Do graphic images come to mind?

As I’m exploring more ways in which to move characters through a setting or place, argot (rhymes with target) or jargon comes into play so that the scene and characters seem authentic. According to the English Language Desk Reference, “Though the words, ‘”jargon’” and ‘”argot’” are interchangeable, ‘”jargon’” has derogatory connotations and one of its common meanings is gibberish, nonsense.”

Your argot may not be the same as my argot.


It’s believed Victor Hugo was one of the first to study argot/jargon extensively and his portrayal of social injustice in Les Misérables depicts the differences of social classes; the ways in which groups communicate—a kind of secret language that others from another group can’t understand.

Hugo is quoted as saying this: “What is argot; properly speaking? Argot is the language of misery.” I’ve not read the novel, but I’m assuming he’s referring to the protagonists who cannot escape their lot in life—“the wretched,” “the miserable ones.” They too had their own unique argot or jargon.

The case is now sub juice and what you are proposing is contra legem,

The case is now sub judice and what you are proposing is contra legem.

Physicians have it. As do police, military personnel, pilots and controllers, criminals, editors, lawyers, well, you get the gist.

Continental 10-22, four miles from gimmie, turn left heading zero seven zero, maintain 3,000 until established on the localizer, cleared ILS. Runway four right approach We have clearance, Clarence. Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?

Continental 10-22, four miles from gimmie, turn left heading zero seven zero, maintain 3,000 until established on the localizer, cleared ILS. Runway four right approach We have clearance, Clarence.
Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?

By the way, the opening line of this post could be from someone in publishing. Letting something “bleed” then cutting it refers to printing something beyond its borders and then trimming it so that there’s no white space surrounding it. If I’d added the word “Stat!” it’d have a whole different meaning.

I’m not a doctor, but would you ever let something bleed, then cut it? I don’t know. That’s not my argot club.

Before Boredom Sets In

I’m not attempting to give a lesson in jargon here but I find it interesting that it exists, that we use it and without even thinking about it. If I were an actor in theater my angel would be whoever is backing the play/production, a theatrical backer. If I were a priest, that angel would have wings.

Three different angels.

Three different angels.

Not to be confused with dialect, which I’ve written about before—this being “a version of language spoken in a particular geographic region or by a specific group of people.” Some writers do this well. Others, not so much.

“I don’t wont’ you to go. If you’d wonted’ to go, you should’ve put on that brand new dress I made yew. It’s too late, i’dnt it?”

The above is dialogue I wrote in a scene. One of the members of my writing group said: I hate dialect.

Do you? Do you find it distracting or does it add to your reading pleasure?

We all have a kind of vocabulary of our own and our argot/jargon, dialect, and ways in which we communicate are derived from where we come from. I find it fascinating that we do this—express ourselves in different ways—and yet, we’re usually able to understand each other if we try.

Before I bore the hell out of you, I’ll end this post with some dialect.

Later on, I think I’ll ask my hubby to bring the lorry around and we’ll make sure it has plenty of petrol. Though I’d rather stay home, starkers on the settee watching telly, it’s best we go to the gym. I’ll grab my macintosh and wellies and afterwards we’ll go to the pub. I’m not barmy, I’m just restless.

For funsies:

“Something’s not quite right.” She bent down and looked closely at the apron. “Some adjustments have to be made.”

Can you write a quick version using the word apron, in a different jargon? Not the one you tie around your waist before you cook. Or use that one if you’d like.


Do you a have profession in which others may not recognize your argot/jargon? Share please.

References: Random House English Language Desk Reference.
Les Miserables, Computer speak

About Brigitte



30 thoughts on “Say What Now?

  1. putting us to work are you–must think on it–only other apron I can think of is the one on a country sink

    Posted by on thehomefrontandbeyond | January 14, 2016, 1:05 pm
    • Lou, it was a pretty lame prompt and I like yours. An apron is also “the part of the stage in front of the curtain” when alluding to the the-a-ter, dah-ling. That desk reference comes in pretty handy. 😉 Thanks for stopping in, my friend.


      Posted by Brigitte | January 14, 2016, 1:21 pm
  2. My medical jargon slips into everything I do, whether it be writing or speech. Drives my kids crazy. On the other hand, they might be the few teens who use laterally and medially correctly and don’t bat an eye to nephrogenic, microbiome, and peritoneal. 😉

    I like how you differentiated jargon from dialect. They are indeed two different things. Too much dialect does start to annoy me. My current WIP has some Haitian characters, and I’m trying to get their accents across without making things difficult for the reader.

    Posted by Carrie Rubin | January 14, 2016, 1:26 pm
    • I bet it does, Carrie. And also, say what now? Ha!

      I bet writing Haitian accents isn’t easy and I agree, that too much can be distracting. Not sure if you read The Help, but at first, much of that dialogue, until I got used to it, was distracting. I’m not sure. Maybe sprinkle a little dialect, then go on with things — ?

      What is fun as well is trying to attempt dialogue of someone who has had one too many cocktails. When I do try to attempt it—accents, dialect, whatever, I have to sound it out loud — do you? That’s why actors have dialect coaches because it can make or bread a scene.

      Thanks Carrie! >

      Posted by Brigitte | January 14, 2016, 1:36 pm
  3. I’ve become more conscious of using jargon over the years … well, depending on the audience. One thing for sure, I’m very aware with those in English Second Language class. In terms of writing in a dialect, hmmmm … probably out of my skill set.

    Posted by aFrankAngle | January 15, 2016, 2:42 pm
    • That’s interesting Frank. You should write about that — ESL. And, I’m sure your skill set could most definitely include some creative dialect. 😄. Thanks Frank!


      Posted by Brigitte | January 15, 2016, 6:30 pm
      • The ESL folks are a treat … adults who want to learn. I try to watch my words by trying to speaking clearly at a reasonable speed, and minimal to no slang .. and they have a definite dialect.

        Posted by aFrankAngle | January 18, 2016, 7:18 am
      • I bet they are, Frank. I would think this would be a very fulfilling thing to do. And I can’t imagine having to learn English with all our slang and words that sound the same but have different meanings. >

        Posted by Brigitte | January 18, 2016, 9:44 am
      • They tell me that their native languages also have much slang … so in a way, that evens the score. But yes – I enjoy doing this … many very nice people. My next post may include an aspect of them – but not sure yet.

        Posted by aFrankAngle | January 18, 2016, 9:47 am
      • I’m sure everyone would love to read about it!


        Posted by Brigitte | January 18, 2016, 9:55 am
      • It’s a positive spin on people. Just haven’t decided which post goes up Tuesday night.

        Posted by aFrankAngle | January 18, 2016, 10:04 am
  4. I think writing in dialect adds to the characterization..after all, how we speak is a part of who we are, correct? I never use jargon…haaa.
    This post was the tops in creativity, woman. Enjoyed as usual and you always get me thinking.

    Posted by UpChuckingwords | January 15, 2016, 6:02 pm
  5. “I hate dialect.

    Do you? Do you find it distracting or does it add to your reading pleasure?”

    It depends on what kind of dialect it is. The dialogue you used in your scene made perfect sense to me, because it was a Southern dialect. But in Wuthering Heights, the servant Joseph speaks in a Yorkshire dialect I can’t understand at all. Consequently, I skip over all of his lines and figure out what he said via context clues.

    Posted by Erin E. | January 17, 2016, 10:55 am
    • I agree with it does depend on the type. And thanks for your comment regarding my attempted Southern dialect. I’ve read some dialect and like you, don’t understand what the character(s) are saying. If the writer is good, the reader can determine it anyway, as you did. I’ve not read Wuthering Heights since high school which is a longggggg time ago. I commend you! Not sure if I could get through it again!

      Thanks, Erin.


      Posted by Brigitte | January 17, 2016, 12:08 pm
  6. Dialect, while making it a bit more challenging for readers to read through, really makes a character stand out I think. I don’t mind it as long as it’s still fairly readable and not so challenging that it takes me out of the story I’m reading.

    The only jargon I have is dance jargon but unless I’m teaching a class (which I haven’t done since college), I don’t use it very often. It does give me some satisfaction though when I take a dance or fitness class and can understand pretty much everything the teacher says (ex. “step ball change, plié, then spin around to face upstage and reach towards stage left”). This post was fascinating Brigitte, I appreciate how you always challenge us as readers and make us think!

    Posted by lillianccc | January 17, 2016, 1:22 pm
    • It does prove more challenging but I agree with you, it can work if done skillfully, Lillian. Thanks for that jargon! I don’t understand all the terms, but do some of them from reading about characters that are dancers.

      And thanks, as always for your kind comments and for stopping in, Lillian. You always bring a fresh perspective! >

      Posted by Brigitte | January 17, 2016, 4:28 pm
  7. Oh, yes, archaeology has its own jargon. Would you like to hear about provenience data? Stratigraphic profiles? Ceramic seriation? Projectile point typologies? Cultural landscapes? Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, as amended? No? I can’t blame you! 🙂

    Dialogue is tough, and I think most writers should use it sparingly—just enough to give the flavor. Few of us can manage it like a Mark Twain, I’m afraid!

    Posted by jmmcdowell | January 20, 2016, 6:45 pm
    • Oh my. What did you just say? 😳 If I recall your protagonist in your novel spoke this jargon. I like it. I’ve read books with jargon I don’t get until I read more or I’ll look it up and I learn something.

      I agree with you about dialogue but a little here and there isn’t too bad I don’t think. It can be a little grating if overdone. Unless of course you’re Mr. Samuel Longhorne Clemens. 😉

      Great to see you and thanks JM.


      Posted by Brigitte | January 20, 2016, 7:23 pm
      • My fictional archaeologists do drop some jargon. 😉 But I really try to make it immediately clear what they actually said. And if I’ve failed, I hope betas will let me know so I can clean things up. 🙂

        Posted by jmmcdowell | January 20, 2016, 7:30 pm
      • I actually like it. I used to read Patricia Cornwell and it was loaded with ME jargon. I think you did a great job with your jargon.


        Posted by Brigitte | January 20, 2016, 7:36 pm

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