Jargon

on
I am trodding through Iain M Banks’ ‘The Algebraist’, and finding it a painful read.   It is so incredibly jargon loaded as to be nearly unreadable.  This gem nearly gave me an aneurysm
“It was two base ten orders of magnitude…”
and at first I chuckled, because obviously the ‘base ten’ part of that sentence is useless jargon, as ‘two base ten’ is merely two.  The book used an extra two words to say ‘it was two orders of magnitude…’
And then the counter argument came to me.  “What if this is being said be someone not using my systematization of numbers?  Is this sentence meant to emphasize the very alien-ness of some alien character?”  But to that counter argument came another counter-argument.  That cannot be the case because we only need to refer to different bases when writing the numbers out, not when we speak them.
If I were to say ‘Two base one orders of magnitude…’ it would be indistinguishable from my having said ‘2 base 1 order of magnitude’ which is the same as saying ‘2 orders of magnitude’ (said in base ten) or ’11 orders of magnitude’ (said in base one).
Reaching as far as possible to give Banks some credit, we could say this is a linguistic problem, perhaps making the argument that in the speakers language two is a completely different numeral.  But if that were the case why make the reference to the base system at all (unless the one these people used was different from the one we would use) and even so why would you refer to a numeral in a different number system that happens to be homophonic to a number in our language!
Nope.  Can’t seem to justify it.

Ugh.  God Damn it Banks!
And this is why I hate jargon loaded sci-fi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s