NPR’s Weekend Edition interviewed former General Stanley McChrystal this past weekend. If you are not familiar with the General he resigned over a story that appeared in Rolling Stone that quoted his aides being critical of President Obama’s White House. During the interview General McChrystal referred to the language that the military uses to describe things and how that differs from how a politician might.
From the interview, “He ran into misunderstandings between military and civilian leadership over things as simple as terminology (“defeating” the enemy doesn’t mean you have to kill them in military lingo, but civilian leaders were concerned by the term).
“What it really showed was because different cultures — the military, civilian, whatnot — all have their own lexicon, you can be having a conversation where you think you’re communicating effectively … but you’re not,” he says.”
Much to the chagrin of many librarians, Proquest decided to put “Scholarly Journals” and “Peer-Reviewed” as different limiters for their database searching options. The sheer confusion caused by this cannot be underestimated. I have had to explain this countless times to students and faculty. These silly miscommunications pepper our experiences as reference librarians. Even the simplest reference interview often has many miscommunications between people, both speaking the same language yet their words contain entirely different meanings. Librarians need to remember that language matters. No matter how clear we think we might be explaining something it is important to always verify that the message is being clearly communicated.