If Jack Dorsey and the other co-founders of Twitter had been more etymologically minded in 2006 (there’s some evidence that some of them have since improved), then instead of Twitter we might have had ‘Jargon’.
Only the coolest and least angry birds know that the origin of the word ‘jargon’ has to do with the language of birds, the twittering that goes on on the branches, that only a few people can understand. One of these was St Francis, who reportedly preached to birds. What the biographers didn’t mention is that the saint from Assisi was the first to understand jargon and the first to log into Twitter before the 140-character chirping was heard in the woods.
It’s unclear whether the Old French word ‘jargon’, which passed unadulterated into Middle and then Modern English, trills back to a much older word or whether it’s just echoic, imitating the tweeting sound as heard by the first jargonizing observer.
To call something jargon is to give the benefit of the doubt to a word or expression which we don’t understand. It may mean something to a specialised group of people or nothing at all. Jargon makes sense to particular groups through its capacity to improve communication, but it is also an instrument of deception.