Where I waffle about jargon and alpacas

spinning brown alpaca wool

Every industry has its own jargon. A shorthand. A recognized way to communicate with people who understand the same concepts already.  No point spelling it out to people in the know. They would find it irritating. They’ve read the same books and attended the same courses. Far better to use jargon to refer to the idea and move on.

I work in an industry that has loved jargon since the beginning. Makes life easier to communicate, but also unfortunately, can act as a barrier to everyone else.

There are also inside jokes.

alpaca fleece

Years ago, I used to teach computing. This was before every home and office had a computer. My children find this a puzzling concept, but there really was a time. One of the courses I taught was a beginner’s guide to computers. It was my least favourite course.

Most attendees knew very little and it may have been the first time they had ever used a computer. Quite understandably, they were nervous. Computers had a way of doing this to people back then. I would be faced with a room full of people who did not smile or speak. For a whole day. (Although they tended to give the biggest thanks and smile, to me, as they left, than any other course I ran.)

I tried to engage them. I used to lighten the mood with the odd IT joke. After a while I clicked that I needed to laugh at my own jokes, otherwise people would note it down as if it was fact.

spinning jacob fleece by the fire

For instance, when I talked about computer memory I would add in about half a byte being a nibble. It is, but it was far more than they needed to know and I only included it to raise a smile or a reaction. They would all note it down. Ah well, maybe it helped them understand stack overflows if they ever came across them.

The point is we are surrounded by jargon. I deal in jargon every day. Until yesterday, I appreciated that my day job was jargon ridden, but I hadn’t appreciated that my hobbies were too.


I was talking to one of the mothers in the playground about alpacas visiting care homes. I didn’t know that this was a thing, but apparently it happens. We talked about the animals and the practicality of such a beast visiting.  As I left, I happened to mention that I liked spinning alpaca.

For a fleeting moment, as I turned away, I registered the mother’s face change. Her expression was half way between shock and puzzlement. I didn’t think much more, as the very thought of using the soft fleece on my spinning wheel had already transported me off to a happy-spinning-yarn place in my head. It was the first type of fleece I spun and knitted up to make something real.

handspun handknitted hat 1

Hats for my children. They still have them. These photos are from one of my early blog posts. I cannot believe it was five years ago!

homespun hats 3

Anyway, as I relived that happy project, I was all but skipping down our lane. Thinking about lovely fleece has that effect on me. It wasn’t till I got home and shared the idea of visiting alpacas, with my children, that I remembered her expression. It didn’t make sense. Surely everyone appreciates the softness of alpaca fleece. How could the idea of spinning it, concern anyone?

Then it hit me. I had shortened alpaca fleece to alpaca. It was shorthand. It was jargon.  A fellow spinner would have understood, but I don’t think she is a spinner. I had said that I liked spinning alpaca to some one who didn’t know I even had a spinning wheel.  I had left her not with the image of soft luxurious clothing. No. I had just (falsely) informed her that I was the type of person that liked to spin an alpaca around very fast, possibly by the back legs. Or had she thought I’d replaced an exercise spinning machine with an alpaca. Or something worse. No wonder she looked shocked.

I suppose it could have been worse. I could have mentioned lazy kates and niddy noddies. That really would have enhanced my reputation in the playground. I had used jargon in the wrong place.

So, now I’m in a quandary. Do I put her mind at rest, next time I see the concerned mother, or should I just leave it? Forever marked out. Maybe I’ll just go and get my spinning wheel out and think about it as I spin a bit of Jacobs. (The type of sheep, not a small boy)


What do you think?

alpacas-2(The alpaca is shaking it’s head.)

Seems fitting that as jargon has dominated my week, that my word of the week is jargon.

22 thoughts on “Where I waffle about jargon and alpacas

  • Wednesday 19 October, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Next time you see her, find some way to mention your spinning wheel in the conversation. Meanwhile, stopping abusing those darling animals, you horrible woman! 😀

    It may be that, like you, afterward she realized what you were referring to.

    • Wednesday 19 October, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Yes, I could just mention my wheel, although I’m sure I’d manage to dig a deeper hole! I promise I have never harmed an alpaca in my life. Nor do I intend to start. 🙂 Neither will I be spinning their fleece until it is absolutely no longer attached to them.

  • Thursday 20 October, 2016 at 9:39 am

    You should pop over to my frend Dawn’s blog. She keeps Alpacas – Sorry I couldn’t cut and paste the link.x

    • Thursday 20 October, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      I’ll have to pop over. Soft spot for alpacas. (Tidied up the link)

  • Friday 21 October, 2016 at 9:42 am

    That’s funny. I bet she was imagining that you spun alpacas. Had this image of you wrestling with an alpaca to spin it! 😉 Those hats look absolutely adorable. I do love your crafts 🙂 #wotw

    • Friday 21 October, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks, Dean. Goodness. I’m not sure I could wrestle an alpaca even if I tried, let alone wanted to!

  • Friday 21 October, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Oh, I love this! I say leave it, it’s a great reputation to have! I find it fascinating that you were even discussing alpacas on the school run, as that’s not one of my regular chats! Thanks for sharing with #WotW

    • Friday 21 October, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      I had one of my tall dogs with me and it reminded her about alpacas visiting the place she works that day. Ha! I wish alpacas were a more frequent topic of conversation for me.

  • Friday 21 October, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Lol, it would never have occurred to me that you meant anything other than spinning alpaca fleece until I started thinking about why it would have resulted in a confused and slightly shocked look. I now have a wonderful mental image of you spinning around holding an alpaca by the legs – very funny although not nice for the poor alpaca. I’d be inclined just to leave it – chances are she might have later twigged what you really meant! #WotW

    • Friday 21 October, 2016 at 4:38 pm

      Goodness. Alpacas are safe with me. I’d probably not be strong enough to get them off the ground, let alone spin them.

  • Friday 21 October, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    haha, love a bit jargon. How lovely are them hats mind X #wotw

    • Saturday 22 October, 2016 at 10:31 pm

      Thanks! They still love wearing them.

  • Saturday 22 October, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Oh I love this, it made me lol! I think you should leave her with the picture she’s already got in her mind. Or maybe she’s upgraded to an alpaca at a spinning class?! #wotw

    • Saturday 22 October, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      Now you’ve put a picture in my head. It would be funny!

  • Saturday 22 October, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    I think that’s hilarious! I’d love a conversation where someone slipped in about spinning alpacas! Or especially about Niddy Noddies! I’ve no idea hat they are, but they sound fun!What a great #WotW

    • Sunday 23 October, 2016 at 9:11 am

      There are obviously not enough conversations going on about spinning alpacas! Niddy Noddy is one of my favourite spinning phrases. Also a very simple device which is used for turning the new yarn on the bobbin into skeins. I’ll have to sneak it into my #wotw next week. 😀

  • Sunday 23 October, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    Loved reading this. Although for some reason I’m picturing the animals on roundabouts to the tune of White Stripes Seven Nation Army. #WotW

    • Sunday 23 October, 2016 at 4:24 pm

      Hadn’t thought of that one. You see what happens when you utter a parting sentence which seems simple and straightforward to you? All kinds of images.

  • Sunday 23 October, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    I can just imagine that lady going home to google ‘spinning alpaca’ to put her mind at rest 😆 . My sister in law is a nurse and she always uses medical jargon I’m forever saying ‘what does that mean’, I think when you use it every day for work you just forget that nobody else knows what on earth you are talking about. #WotW

    • Monday 24 October, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Ah yes. That is true. We all get so used to our own jargon, that we forget that not everyone uses it, let alone understands it.

  • Sunday 23 October, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    This did make me giggle, what a funny image actually spinning an Alpaca! Isn’t it funny how people misinterporate what we say!

    • Monday 24 October, 2016 at 8:07 pm

      I guess we all do it. Oh well. No harm done, I think.

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