From time to time we get a question that hinges on what is a term-of-art for some profession or craft. For instance, right now we have this fine question concerning an odd turn of phrase in medical research.

StackExchange's tag system has an interesting property which might help us support this sort of advanced ELL question better. If we had tags for common specialty domains – medicine, law, programming/comp sci, and athletics/sports all leap to mind – people with specialist knowledge of English usage in those domains could subscribe to those tags. I would be happy to subscribe to "jargon-medicine" (or even better "jargon-medicine-psychiatry") and get alerts emailed to me for the occasional question to which my expertise pertains, which otherwise I would be likely to miss because I don't have a lot of opportunity to check in here daily.

Basically, we could be using the tags as a kind of Bat Signal to make sure that questions that need specialist attention come to the attention of specialists.

I'm not sure "jargon" is the right term, since I don't mean it only to include "jargon terms". One of the things interesting about the example question I cite above is that it's about an idiosyncratic word being used in a medical context that isn't medical jargon, but it may be being employed because all the obvious alternatives are terms-of-art in medical research, that don't pertain to what the authors meant. I imagine there might be things about grammar and style, too, that are profession/domain-specific.

I'm not sure what the right term would be though.

Edited to add: We just got a question about verb tense in programming, a fabulous example of a non-terminology question about professional/specialty English language use.

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    I've been using terminology as the catchall for these; it's only got a bit over 100 posts so far, so I'm not sure it's entirely worth splitting up yet. Jun 6, 2016 at 19:00
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    @NathanTuggy I don't think the asks this pertains to are getting tagged "terminology" in the first place, so I'm not sure its count is representative. I mean, it wouldn't have occurred to me to use terminology that way. But even more to the point, having one tag for all specialist terminology questions (or specialist usage/grammar questions) defeats the purpose I propose. Subscribing to "terminology" will fill your inbox with other-than-the-intended questions. Jun 6, 2016 at 21:42
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    Tagging is a finicky balance between specificity on the one hand, and general applicability on the other; you want to split things up enough to make real distinctions, but without having an enormous taxonomy of hundreds of 1- and 2-question tags. Those hyperspecialized tags would be less likely to be correctly applied, or applied at all, not more. It might be useful to have half a dozen or so divisions under terminology, but beyond that the value drops off sharply. Jun 6, 2016 at 22:44
  • @NathanTuggy Agreed. Jun 6, 2016 at 23:22
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    We've already got some of these: legal, mathematics, literature, military, philosophy, scientific are all tags in use. Jun 7, 2016 at 18:11
  • Looking over some of the questions with other tags, it seems like folks would like an academic-writing tag, or something to distinguish writing a formal paper from everyday usage.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 8, 2016 at 10:50
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    Possibly best to use the pair of tags : "jargon" and " medicine"; or "jargon" and "medicine" and "psychiatry", rather than create a new host of tags. I'm sure you can get notified for specific combinations of tags.
    – Euan M
    Jun 8, 2016 at 20:19
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    @EuanM: Generally, tags that only make sense in combination are undesirable. It's not clear how there can be any significant number of [medical] questions that are not medical terminology questions. Jun 10, 2016 at 7:14
  • We don't want tags to proliferate, do we? Arrow-making ... Home-brewing ... Animal Husbandry ... Witchcraft.... Religion ... Anthropology ... Topography ... they all have their jargon or specialized-usage-and-terminology
    – TimR
    Jul 14, 2016 at 16:19

2 Answers 2


There are three fields that I can remember getting more than one question that was really about a specialized use of language: medicine, law, and mathematics. Other fields have jargon or terminology, but I believe the questions I've seen could be answered by almost any native speaker with decent search skills.

Since we already have and as StoneyB pointed out, why don't we see if we can find 10 (or some other arbitrary threshold) questions we would like to tag with medical (or another field specific tag) before we create a new tag? If we can't find 10 current questions that would benefit from a tag, we probably don't need it.

If we find we want to add a new tag, I think that we should work on making the usage guidance of , , , , and the new tags consistent. I don't think is a good tag. It only has 7 questions and it seems like it's more a question of formality than about jargon or terminology specific to "science", so I went through and retagged the questions. Also, it's strange that legal is described as "for questions about legalese" but has its own tag.

  • What about computer/programming terminology? I feel like we get lots of questions about that sort of thing?
    – Catija
    Jun 9, 2016 at 22:10
  • @Catija We do, if only because SE started with SO. However, programming doesn't use English in a specialized way as law or medicine does - we just make up new words and tend to have a large chunk of our body of literature that isn't well-written.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 10, 2016 at 11:24
  • "Headlinese" is a standard term but "legalese" is a pejorative, somewhat sarcastic term.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jun 23, 2016 at 20:10
  • @ColleenV Re programming, check out this question we just got about verb tense and programming: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/94750/… Jun 26, 2016 at 2:18
  • @Codeswitcher It's an interesting question, but I don't think it's a programming-ese question. Imperative vs. gerund is a question for any process flow chart, not just one describing some software design. I wonder if we shouldn't have a "specialized-usage" tag to categorize these sorts of questions. It's not really terminology or jargon.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 26, 2016 at 12:24

Why don't we start collecting a list of questions we think might need an additional tag and then take a look at what we have? I added the examples from the original post, and a couple of others that I think may be special situations, although I'm not prepared to say they merit a whole new tag. I'll add more as I come across them.

  1. Why are imperative verbs used in computer science?
  2. Meaning of "ascertainment" in a medical article
  3. A phrase about "my brain" and "programming"
  4. how do pronounce assignment = in math or programming?
  5. Is this how you state your university, graduate school, department, and major?
  6. Can I use the relative pronoun "where" here? (There is a particular interest here in how 'where' is used in research papers, so it might benefit from a specialized usage tag)
  7. "Non-imported" versus "Not-imported" (A question that may get closed about "correct" naming for programming variables/functions, but I can imagine there could be a way to bring this on-topic)
  8. Which tense to use in an academic paper when referring to past research?
  9. What does "chrome" mean besides the metal? (about an unusual use of chrome)
  10. Do I place the cursor 'in a cell' or 'on a cell' when working on a spreadsheet?

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