Do I have a point to say that, in the area of science, people have difficulties understanding it mostly due to the way words are used to describe whatever it may be? One may understand the words themselves but, the way they are used, it becomes difficult to form a corresponding mental image. This could perhaps be caused due to scientists not studying language and, when used in a certain way, this causes major obstacles. It is difficult for me to assume that the vast majority of folks can't repair the electronic devices which are all around us only because they are just not born bright. It seems this is due simply to the way it is presented and taught.

Phase-space, quadrature, axioms, manifolds and metrics and on and on to no end.

Aside from those terms, the definition of words is given its own trajectory and doesn't follow how it is used by society at large or by the dictionary. Discrete values, digital transmission of information. Discrete is not so discrete and digital is not a single point but a range of values which for a beginner and long after is not made clear. Mostly it becomes clear when he finally enters the real world and most everything he shoved in and regurgitated is bye-o bye-o anyway, forgotten.

The main reason I have been told is you have to put up with it as those things become clear later as you progress and can see the actuality of it. In the meantime you struggle and simply memorize if you can. You learn them to get papers, to get a job. Survival.

For instance you don't really charge a battery. Batteries are full of charges and so is everything else. Electrons don't really flow through wires like water through a pipe, etc.

These type of things will never happen in literature and humanity courses or any other fields.

Do I have a point that science which is supposed to be accurate and clear with each word or term used is not true at all?

  • I don't see how this is opinion-based. I'm having a hard time imagining anyone who seriously studies linguistics answering yes to this question.
    – Nardog
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 14:18
  • 3
    @Nardog I don't even know what the question is here. Apparently the OP does not know the meaning of "digital" (which has more than one definition in any English dictionary) and doesn't know the difference between "discrete" and "discreet", but so what?
    – alephzero
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 15:53
  • "These type of things will never happen in literature and humanity courses or any other fields." You will find this sort of thing in music theory, in jurisprudence, and in philosophy. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 16:10
  • To the extent to which you have a point, I think it's more about deficiencies in pedagogy than in usages of scientists. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 16:11
  • 3
    “The way words are used” is an extremely broad concept. You are right that at least some lack of clarity is due to writers not having studied language – your own question is a good example of that. All the words are understandable, but they do not form coherent sentences that tally with one another, and the end result is that it’s impossible to tell what you’re actually asking. But it is absolutely not true that arcane and counterintuitive terminology and things that ‘will become clear as you progress’ do not occur in the humanities. They are everywhere in the humanities. Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 15:16

4 Answers 4


No, you do not have a point, because (good) science does use words accurately and unambiguously. But it is probably true that they don't use the words that you would prefer, or assign the definitions that you would prefer. I suspect that you would not get it if I tried to teach you about phonology, because I use a number of special words and specially-defined words (phoneme, feature, rule). The non-technical word "feature" is hopelessly vague. But phonologists (and linguists in general) have clarified what thing we mean when talking about grammars ("grammar" is another specialized term). There are two choices. You can learn our contextual definitions, or we can try to write in plain "everybody understands it" English. This may be necessary in teaching science, but in actually doing science, it is massively inefficient. Word meaning is always influenced by context, you just have to know the context.

  • Certainly it is influenced by context. That goes without saying. Of course in everyday useage the terms charging battery is perfectly acceptable and conveys what the person should or is doing. Of course files are downloaded or uploaded in computers and not photons. You don't go around and tell the other person I will send you photons with I get home instead of a message. I am referring to within the context itself when the foundation is being built. If built correctly in the first place. I will give you clear specific examples and it will go over to the next comment already. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 17:38
  • Laws of conservation of matter ( science). Laws of conservation of energy ( science). Laws of linear and angular momentum ( science). Matter is created and destroyed all the time ( science). Photons are packets of energy ( science). Photons are carrier of energy( science, they are created and destroyed). Photons are force carriers ( science). Photons are quantum of the field ( science). Electricity is movement of charges/electrons ( science). Charges themselves are electricity ( science). Electron spin ( science). Electrons don't spin ( science). That is the tip of the iceburg. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 17:49
  • 1
    @Ali Sorry. Those examples aren't clear at all, nor is it clear why you're adding (science) after everything, especially completely nonscientific ideas like matter being created and destroyed.
    – lly
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 15:37

To respond to a few of your specific points:

For instance you don't really charge a battery. Battery is full of charges so is everything else. Electrons don't really flow through wires like water through a pipe, etc.

But in everyday use, most people don't need to care that the battery is already full of charges and you're actually just separating them out. Even for an electrical engineer or a physicist, what's the benefit of saying "I need to separate the existing charges in the battery of my phone" instead of "I need to charge my phone"?

Language is a tool, and it's used in whichever way native speakers find it most useful. "Charging" batteries is a common enough activity that native English-speakers find it useful to have a word for this.

Phase-space, quadrature, axiums, manifolds and metrics and on and on to no end.

These words are used because people in the field find them useful. Every field of study includes concepts that aren't used outside that field. And those concepts need names.

These type of things will never happen in literature and humanity courses or any other fields.

Every field has concepts that aren't used outside the field. Literary scholars will use words like "exegesis" that make no sense to outsiders, or repurpose existing words like "criticism". Musicians use words like "timbre" and "harmonics" and repurpose words like "temperament". And philosophy is infamous for how complicated its terminology can get.

It is difficult for me to assume that the vast majority of folks who can't repair any electronic devices which are all around us is not because they are just not born bright but simply is due to the way it is presented and taught.

Understanding terms like "quadrature", "exegesis", "timbre", "phoneme", and so on has nothing to do with being born bright and everything to do with training and education. Most people have never learned what "phoneme" means because it's not a concept that's important to their life. But people who study linguistics are taught what that word means, because it's important within that specific field.

  • When I took science classes back in the days, phyiscs in general and computer science at is onset, building the foundation, the vast majority of them were totally false. To see if it is just my experience or if it really is true. I decided to ask different people about different subjects. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 18:23
  • I asked a licensed electrician for instance, what do you actually do to a battery when you charge it. He stood there, starring at the ground and didn't know what to say. He got credentials. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 18:26
  • Most so called professionals simply learn to follow instructions. That is be able to read and write. That is what you learn. Since you are a licensed electrician, you know what electricity is. Of course he couldn't say no. I asked him if there is such thing as electric energy, if there no such term that is one thing but if there is, then what is the difference between electric energy and electricity and which one moves from the source to the load with the blink of an eye. He had no idea. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 18:27
  • 3
    @Ali Science, in general, is a process of building models of reality that help us understand it. If an engineer wants to calculate how strong a particular support beam needs to be, Newtonian mechanics will be a more useful model than general relativity or quantum dynamics, and "mass is an intrinsic property of objects" will be a more useful explanation than "mass is energy" or "mass comes from the Higgs field". It's not a lie being mindlessly repeated, it's a model that's useful for the engineer's purpose.
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 19:55
  • 3
    @Ali I'm not sure that the electrician or teacher were nonplussed by their own ignorance. It could simply be that you are asking questions that sound to them like what is the difference between "food" and "things that I eat"? It's not that they don't understand their own discipline; it's that they don't understand what you're trying to ask or whether it's worth trying to explain entire professions' worth of concepts to you, when they're just trying to (eg) charge your battery and go get lunch.
    – lly
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 15:43

Yes and No

You're mostly talking to people who are actively trying to be helpful, contributing time to answer linguistics problems as clearly as possible. These people you're talking to use technical words (phoneme, labial, &c) but they do so precisely, using the apt phrase, glossing it and providing links as necessary. Their main answer will just be "No, you're wrong".

Really, there are people who use jargon for intentional obscurity, solely to make their words sound more professional than they are, to the point where peer-reviewed journals not infrequently publish papers written in complete gibberish (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ad naus.). To put it mildly, the humanities are not an exception to this. It's also older than written language: at the inception of cuneiform, you already have beer recipes, metal smelting, and astrological observations coded in odd jargon and religious symbolism.

Your main problem seems to be unfamiliarity with Latin. Because European languages use alphabets instead of logographic characters, communication across borders (and in international settings like universities) has generally required an international language. Every modern European language has borrowed and reborrowed tons of Latin from its long service in this role, although oddly under the Roman Empire itself the lingua franca was just as often Greek. Modern English in particular tends to lean heavily into Latin and Latinized Greek terms for professional fields and disciplines requiring great linguistic care, whether law, medicine, mathematics, linguistics, or technology. Some of this is certainly just professional gatekeeping (you need to know the passwords to be taken seriously in certain important circles) but mostly it has to do with the precision afforded by Latin's many, many prefixes and suffixes. It can feel painful to basically have to learn an entire separate language to deal with high-school, university, and professional English but, for native speakers within the system, we keep it around because it's simply much more efficient to say (eg) "paternal grandfather" instead of glossing "grandfather on my dad's side of the family". The same basic idea applies to the special terms within any given discipline.

For what English would look like without this, you could try Thing Explainer or the still more bizarre "Uncleftish Beholding" ("Atomic Theory").

Beyond that, you just seem stymied that some terms will have more than one meaning. That will happen to any system of human communication but it happens much less with the use of more exact terminology, pretty much by definition.


There is such thing as meta level. Greek μετα- means ‘after, behind’. The easiest way to think about it is by naming it ‘thing about thing’. For example, metadata is “data about data” — a photo in your phone is data, but in it there's metadata, data about the photo — when the photo was taken, its size, the exposition time, etc.

So data about data is metadata, and a text about a text is a metatext. For example, the film ‘Romeo + Juliet’, 1996, with Leonardo DiCaprio, is a typical metatext, it is a text about the text by Shakespeare.

In the same way, there is also metalanguage. It is the language we use to talk about language, “language about language”. “Phoneme, feature, rule” from the previous answer by user6726 — all of such terms belong to the meta-language. Naturally, you can talk about a language using your own language, with its words meaning mostly the same things as when you talk about, say, ice-cream, or girls, or cats, or weather, but you are to be aware that there exist metalanguages — languages which are meant to be used when talking about languages, and since metalanguage is still a language, its words have their own meanings, often different from the meanings seemingly identical words have in your everyday speech when you speak about cats and weather. It is from this difference between the meaning of the metalanguage words and common language words that misunderstanding can arise. In fact, studying a branch of knowledge, apart from practical skills, is mostly about mastering its metalanguage.

  • Agreed. And that can not be an excuse to say contradictory things, opposite definitions, opposite laws. The laws of conservation of matter. Matter is created and destroyed. Matter is an abstraction with no real definition in physics. All those three statements are there. That is just one small example. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 18:00
  • Just to be fair I am not referring to philosophy of science and various concepts such as but not limited to: Energy is neither created nor destroyed. Energy is not a particle, a wave, a field, it can not be found anywhere. Energy is an abstract. Energy is a property. Energy is a value assignment. Energy is an ability. Energy is real. There are all types of it anad one can turn into another. Commented Jul 10, 2021 at 18:40

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.