Word Salad and Technical Jargon

2 minute read

 A graphic I created in  Adobe Illustrator  depicting a vegetables, a salad bowl, and the text A graphic I created in Adobe Illustrator depicting a vegetables, a salad bowl, and the text “word salad.” The veggies used are from All Free Download’s Salad the and I got some inspiration from the Dreamtimes stock photo: Bowl with Vegetables. You can download the Illustrator File.

Working in the mental health field when I am working with my clients, I attempt to steer clear of technical jargon. There are times and places that I do use more psychobabble, but if I do use it in session it’s coupled with a description in plain English. This is especially relevant for the clientele that we serve at my agency, which is predominately Medicaid clients. Being a community mental health center, a large percentage of my patients tend to be chronically mentally ill, impoverished, and undereducated. It is always important to make sure that what I am teaching, working on / through is understandable. While, in my conversations, I attempt to include the smallest amount of specialized terminology as possible, in my documentation I strive to be as technically accurate as possible. This means that prefer to name things using the most appropriate and specific verbiage.

Word Salad: Noun
A confused or unintelligible mixture of seemingly random words and phrases, specifically (in psychiatry) as a form of speech indicative of advanced schizophrenia.

– Oxford University Press

While I do not profess to be experiencing anything remotely close to word salad or more clinically defined as schizophasia. Realistically, its not even in the same class of thought disorders. The last couple of weeks, I’ve been noticing that at home I find myself using an excess of opaque non-technological expressions. Very often for me, this means referring to everything as “the thing.” For example, I’ll ask Minnie “can you hand me the thing,” to which she replies “what thing?” and I realize she has not idea what I’m talking about and say “you know, my water bottle.”

For all of us, this is a normal part of speech, and not abnormal one bit. It’s very common for all of us to have a word not come instantly to mind, and so we use some sort of filler word. I almost wish that the stock word I absentmindedly choose was something with more novelty like doohickey, thingy-a-bob, dongle, whatchamacallit, widget.. etc, mine is pretty Plain Jane. We all use different placeholder terms. You should read the the list on Wikipedia article for placeholder names which has some really interesting ones that I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate into my everyday speech.

The same way, if you are doing public speaking and are attempting to stop saying “Umm” (or more frequently “like” for me personally), that I see myself calling any object a thing. It might be, that I’ve been thinking about my over use of “thing,” but it made me wonder if some of it could be because of my days being spent attempting to be clear, concise, and as accurate as possible. Just maybe, it’s as if I save up all my casual phrases and use an abundance whenever I’m away from work.