This is a general question that I’ve been pondering ever since encountering the EBTs.
All technical areas of study depend on specific meanings of standard terms - Jargon. The purpose for this is clear - it is short hand, to communicate quickly and clearly a specific and complex meaning. My own background being psychology, is full of examples where ordinary words in daily usage have a different and specific meaning when applied to that discipline. Short of inventing completely new words (new language) we are stuck with the range of words we have. These words end up being just ‘symbols’ for a specific meaning - the symbol/word is not ‘the meaning’ it just represents it. There is really no way around this, it is a result of representation of highly specific knowledge in a particular field, without having to say/write paragraphs of explanation.
Issue to discuss.
I am extremely appreciative of all the efforts that have gone into the translations of Pali texts. For myself I estimate it took about 2 years to learn the ‘jargon’ or ‘attributed meaning’ to specific words. While a bit challenging, I accept this as ‘par for the course’ in gaining a deep understanding in a new field. This is the same no matter where we work, in all specialist fields.
There are 2 issues regarding translations for me; 1) Accuracy of the expounded meaning of the original texts and 2) choosing a specific word as the representative symbol for that meaning.
I would suggest that accuracy of communicating the meaning is of primary importance, but once a reasonable term is established, it is retained and viewed as legitimate Jargon (with it’s own specific definition). I think this is really important, it fixes the meaning, and assists with clarity. There are always a range of words that could be chosen, but ultimately NONE of them exactly captures the specific meaning of the term as used by the Buddha. The Buddha himself acknowledged that he was using general usage words in a different and specific way, (perhaps one of the first in history to explicitly define terms as Jargon).
What I find somewhat problematic though, is when this ‘jargon’ is not fixed, and when there is a continually changing range of terms that are used. This sort of feels like going backward - of eliminating the jargon (specific attributed usage of a word within context). Personally I find it very confusing and not helpful, and really a hindrance to good communication, rather than an improvement. For me the chosen word is just a symbol of the definition. If the definition needs expanding or clarifying, then that is part of ‘defining the term’ rather than substituting another word/symbol for it.
I know it is not straight forward, and I am interested to hear the thoughts of others on this subject.