Language of Arts vs Science

Have you ever noticed how scientists and artists seem to talk a different language? I admit there is a lot of similarity between the passion and creativity that both bring to their trades. But as a scientist, I can talk for whole sentences in acronyms. Or worse, I can catch myself using technical science terms in regular conversation – like the word, aliquot. I love the word aliquot. To me, Arts academics always seem so eloquent with their extensive vocabularies that can actually be used in conversation.

Listening to the combined Arts and Sciences lectures in ASIC200 last night, I was reminded that each of these disciplines, Arts & Science, do have their own vocabularies. Learning to speak the others language is one of the first steps in getting this interdisciplinary conversation started. Here’s the new words that I learned about (or helped explain) last night:

From the Arts side: polity – a particular form or system of government
From the Sciences: avian – of or pertaining to birds.

Did anybody else notice this difference? I guess we’ll have to keep our handy. If you’ve looked up (or just know) other fancy words and terms covered in class, add ’em here to save us the trouble of looking them up ourselves.

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Joanne often gets really excited when she talks about Science. Luckily, she works in the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory, the educational arm of the Michael Smith Labs. She likes all kinds of science but has a special spot in her heart for biology, technology, and well, sports. As a scientist and educator at UBC, she hopes that she never becomes so specialized that she loses her global perspective. (When she gets around to writing an intro post, I'm sure that she'll link to it here).

7 Responses to “Language of Arts vs Science”

  1. Vinci Au

    There’s definitely a difference in vernacular/jargon and style between the discourses in the Arts and the Sciences. Not too long ago I was at a interactive forum run by Genome BC and one of the concerns raised by the participants was Science literacy. Educators, journalists and scientists alike seemed to be in agreement when talking about the discourse of Science–it should be better. In other words, it should be more “Artsy”, more eloquent and less daunting. Especially with today’s increased hype about Science, we should strive to generate more interest by finding creative ways to communicate all the fascinating things about Science to our audience (ie, ReGenesis-a TV drama about biotechnology / Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood).

  2. Monika Dean

    Anthropogenic-definitely hadn’t heard it until this year, and suddenly it’s in all of my science classes. All of them.

  3. Joanne Fox

    OK, here’s the definitions from your Jargon suggestions (from

    Discourse – a formal discussion of a subject in speech, writing, or conversation.

    Anthropogenic – Caused by humans: anthropogenic degradation of the environment.

  4. Eric Asava-Aree

    The problem with making science communication more artsy is that one might dilute away the true force of the meaning behind such communications, or else lead to misinterpretations of what’s being said. That would be more disastrous than not having people understand what’s going on.

    I think the solution is not to modify one form to attend to the others’ needs, but to modify one’s learning style and learn the necessary vocabulary and concepts needed to understand the other party’s ideas.

  5. Adam Drake

    I am doing a psychology study at UPEI on creativity. My results show that science students are more creative in thinking than arts students. The results were based on an association test.

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