9

I try very hard, when I post on MY, to dejargonify as much as I can, so that what I write is accessible to as many people as possible. I've even been doing it (by now, mostly out of habit) whenever I ask a highly technical (sometimes even "yeshivish" :P) question.

I'm just wondering if that's necessary. Take this question of mine, for example. I hope I'm not insulting anyone's intelligence, but I don't believe that anyone who needs "שחרור עבד" translated for them is likely to know where to find a specific ריטב"א in קידושין; that just seems unlikely.

I don't think that dejargonifying makes these questions unclear, I'm just wondering if the effort is worthwhile; in short: is there any reason I should translate and explain highly technical questions?

7

I think the question you should ask yourself, when writing a post that necessarily involves some jargon or other obscure language, is: will everybody who is likely to be interested in this topic be able to understand it? This means the threshold is in different places for different kinds of questions:

  • A question about the basics of kashrut, prayer, or forbidden labor on Shabbat -- topics that are likely of broad interest and in which there are many beginners -- should be as accessible as possible. Use jargon when necessary (sometimes a precise technical term is important), but explain it somehow. You're going to have way more readers via Google than via the site directly.

  • A question that depends on prerequisite knowledge doesn't need to explain those prerequisites, but try to be conservative here anyway for the sake of the curious outsider. If you're asking how the kal v'chomer in this specific g'mara works, you probably don't need to explain what a kal v'chomer is, though if you're willing to drop in a link (for the person who's just starting to learn g'mara) that's a friendly thing to do.

  • An advanced question in a specialized area probably won't have many readers from outside that area and cluttering up your question with a bunch of beginner explanations might impede the experts you're writing for, so don't worry about it.

In all cases, if somebody asks for clarification of something in comments, please try to respond somehow. Calibrating this stuff is not always easy, so if someone asks, please re-assess.

(As for your specific example -- I don't know how to advise you, because it's too advanced for me to assess!)

  • 3
    Great point: "In all cases, if somebody asks for clarification of something in comments, please try to respond somehow. Calibrating this stuff is not always easy, so if someone asks, please re-assess." – Isaac Moses Dec 30 '14 at 15:27
6

Our "Site policy on jargon" says:

When writing questions and answers on Mi Yodeya, the overall guiding principle you should have in mind is:

Will any English speaker who is interested in this content be able to understand what it means without additional research?

...

  • Don't use non-English terms gratuitously. If there's an English term that conveys your meaning smoothly, just use it. (But there won't always be one.)

    • Not: How much should we pay people involved in chinuch?
    • Not even: How much should we pay people involved in chinuch (Jewish education)?
    • Yes: How much should we pay people involved in Jewish education?

...

  • Terms that anyone who may be interested in the content would know are fine by themselves.

    • Fine: How should I purse my lips when blowing a shofar? No one will care about this if they don't already know what a shofar is.

So, if the question is highly technical and unlikely to be of interest to anyone who isn't already familiar with certain terms, then it's fine to keep those terms in, untranslated. However, if they can be replaced with English terms without loss of meaning or conciseness, they probably should be.


Here's my analysis of the jargon in the example question, "What does the Ritva hold about טלי קידושיך מעל גבי קרקע?":

The question is about the particular position of the Ritva with respect to an issue in the gemara related to gittin. Therefore, it would seem that the least experienced people who would be interested in this would be:

  • Familiar with study of gemara with rishonim.
  • Familiar with the basic concepts of gittin.

Therefore, basic gemara terms, the identity of the Ritva, "Rishonim," and basic gittin words like "גט" and "קידושין" should all be familiar already and shouldn't need dejargonifying. "גט" and "קידושין," in particular, have very specific meanings, so using the Hebrew terms instead of imprecise English translations is not gratuitous.

However, readers who are familiar with and interested in these concepts may be interested in getting into the particular topic you're discussing even if they haven't recently dealt with it themselves, it seems like it's worthwhile to provide a quick explanation of the specific technical terms "טלי גיטיך מעל גבי קרקע" and "טלי." Like "גט" and "קידושין," these are terms of art that have specific meanings within this domain, so using them in Hebrew with a brief explanation the first time is not gratuitous use of Hebrew. I would probably put "מילתא דאיתא בקידושין" in the same category.

"שחרור עבד," on the other hand, while probably familiar enough to people interested in gittin that translation is probably unnecessary, could be, to my mind, quite adequately and concisely translated as "freeing slaves," so using it in Hebrew on this English-language forum seems gratuitous to me.

  • It's times like this that I really wish I could get a "hey, Isaac is currently answering this question" notice when I'm composing an answer. :-) In other words: what he said. – Monica Cellio Dec 30 '14 at 15:29
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio Nah, then you might be dissuaded from posting a parallel answer that's generally in agreement but explains the ideas more cogently. – Isaac Moses Dec 30 '14 at 15:30
2

Mi Yodeya, as with the rest of StackExchange, strives to be two things: a community of experts, asking high level questions, and also a place for beginners to get information.

If you're asking or answering a beginner level question, or at least a question that a beginner would find interesting if they could understand it, it's important to dejargonify.

However, SE is also a community of experts. When you're asking a question that's mainly interesting only to experts, dejargonifying might be unnecessary. If you want to, of course, there's nothing wrong with it.

  • 1
    I meant to put something in the question with the word "expert," but forgot to when I actually wrote it. You raise a good point. – MTL Dec 30 '14 at 18:05

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