Academic-Speak: A Parody

I am fed up with how most academic scholars choose to write. You’ve all read something like it at some point: those pretentious articles filled with unnecessarily convoluted sentence structures and bizarre word replacements like ‘problematic’ for ‘problem’ or ‘crucialities’ for ‘important stuff.’ Some of the words they use don’t even exist.

A case in point, this is the beginning of a film article I’m supposed to read tonight:

Although synoptic overviews of the metropolis are prominent in many films noirs, they do not exhaust the film cycle’s modalities of representing the city. Indeed, their remove from the street and from the lived experience of the pedestrian proves to be both an asset and a limitation. This chapter analyzes wayfinding, peregrinations, and strolls of characters in centripetal space.

Believe it or not, this is for real. Yes, he said ‘remove’ instead of ‘removal’ or ‘isolation’ or ‘distance’ or any other number of normal non-semi-invented words that mean something to the average reader.

Why do academics write like this? This is a topic for a much longer blog post, but suffice to say I think it is for two related reasons: (1) academia is snobby, so they speak in code in order to protect their secret society from infiltration by the ‘commoner,’ and (2) academics are insecure and often much less intelligent than they let on, so they speak in code to prevent people from realizing that they aren’t actually saying anything meaningful. I know the second one is true because I’ve used it on professors to hide my bullshit, and more often than not it’s worked.

Annoyed to death by this stupidity, I undertook a short spoof of academic-speak. Here is a normal paragraph (perhaps a little clumsily worded, but intelligible enough), pre-academicized:

It is undeniable that part of the current problem in academia is the problem of communication that comes from people trying to sound smart without really saying anything. Our era isn’t as won over by writers such as Nietzche and Chesterton because their literary way of speaking doesn’t line up with our ‘strictly academic’ way of presenting ideas. However, in reality they are the ones who more often than not hit on some profound and ‘sublime’ truth, while we get lost in a jungle of pretentious world-play. The method is supposedly to use the most precise and specialized word for any given idea in order to communicate that idea more effectively. The result is the opposite: a puzzle of language so dense that one wonders if the writer is actually trying to produce a postmodern parody of academia. Part of the root of the problem, one could speculate, is a bizarre existential distancing of academia from the experience of common sense and everyday life that results in a corresponding distance of language from common understanding. Just as much modern academia is distanced from real humanity, modern academic-speak is distanced from real language.

Here is that same paragraph translated into academic-speak:

It must be acceded that a facet of the contemporary academic prolegomena in the sphere of intelligentsia is the hermeneutic disconnect and anti-egalitarianism resultant from persons attempting to allude to Delphic meanings in their prose with overwrought syntax and grandiloquent verbosity when no such gnosis is possessed. The fashion au courant  is not as subjugated by the verb-spell of such prodigies as the aphotic and bacchanalian Nietzche or the puckish and transcendentalist Chesterton for the reason that their belletristic or literate modes of elucidation do not couple with the signature academic bar-all-else phraseology. Notwithstanding, such jotun within idealogical historicity are the de facto gurus of the intelligentsia, for the recurrency and accuracy with which they produce a tactility within sublimity is far advanced, while the post-enlightenment mind becomes entangled in a quagmire of pretentions and self-affected verbage. The putative end of such an enterprise is an exercise in lingual precision, using the ‘fortunate’ specialization of language as it has evolved in order to be expressive of more categorical and determinate conceptualizations. The corollary is actually antithetical to what has been willed : a lingual perplexion so hermetic that the question must be asked if the writer really intends satire of the post-modern condition. A radical element to the problem – radical meant in the archaic sense – at least hypothetically is the singular contemporary existentialization – indeed, profound deracination– of academia from the salient phenomena of life as designated by the colloquialism ‘common sense,’ – alternatively the distance from bourgeois life. Ergo, there is a resultant accordant distance of speech from the palpable acquaintances of veram vitam. Namely, as the thoughts of enlightenment and its predecessors become estranged from the communal collective psyche, modern philolingual conventions drift from any salient usage of lingual modes.

As you can putatively elucidate from the afore-presented prosaism – ERM, *cough* – I mean, as the above satire ought to demonstrate, academic-speak (when looked at for what it is) is absolutely ridiculous. It doesn’t communicate, it doesn’t thrill, and it doesn’t even sound intelligent.


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