Monday, 5 October 2015

Academic Language

There is, I was not entirely surprised to find, a word 'academese'*. (Even though the spell-checker has just put a wavy red line under it.) Across the web, there are numerous humorous digs at the way academics speak - not least this one at the PhD Comics website.

I recently experienced something much more subtle. I hear a speaker - a historian - whose talk I was attending, refer to what he was currently 'working on'. I don't doubt his scholarship - his talk was most interesting and informative - but as a scholar, I would have preferred that he told us what he was currently 'studying'. I am, I believe, not being as pedantic as it may appear. There is a significant pressure on academics to produce and show that they have been working. Hence, many slip into 'working on' rather than the 'studying' way of speaking. I find this a pity but as I am often reminded, I am rather old fashioned.

* Not to be confused with 'academise', which, despite having a meaning originating from the Nineteenth century, is coming to be used of the process of turning a publicly run British state school into a privately run academy (so-called).