Gobbledygook: Cracking the Code

July 28, 2011

A monthly rant from the “Frustrated Evaluator”

1. Gobbledygook or gobbledegook (sometimes gobbledegoo) is any text containing jargon or especially convoluted English that results in it being excessively hard to understand or even incomprehensible.

I’m an easy going guy and 90% of the time evaluating international academic documents, something I’ve been doing for nearly 20 years, is a smooth and effortless process. And believe you me, I’ve seen it all. From the handwritten Indian mark sheets to three-inch binders filled with German exam certificates to lengthy Philippines transcripts for not one but three or more degrees. But just when I’ve settled comfortably at my desk, a fresh cup of high octane coffee by my side, transcripts laid out in front of me, and happily breezing through a detailed course-by-course breakdown, I hit a wall. There it is; the quintessential gobbledygook road block! The course title that is either abbreviated to such an extent leaving not a single clue to help expand it to its full meaning, e.g. IMC & AHC, or so ambiguous, e.g. “Manipulating Matters”, leaving you scratching your head or, as is in my case, pulling my hair. Not to put the spotlight on our neighbors to the north, since no one country is innocent, it seems that our Canadian friends absolutely relish issuing transcripts riddled with abbreviated course titles, as though they are producing highly classified documents that only a sophisticated code breaker can decipher.

Sometimes, a little bit of internet browsing on the guilty institution’s website leads me to a curriculum plan and there buried amongst hundreds of courses lies the brainteaser, the abbreviated gobbledygook with its full course title. Eureka! But this is one of those serendipitous moments in life that happens once in a blue moon. Most often, the institution and its website don’t keep curriculum plans that go as far as back as the case you’re working on and the student doesn’t have copies of a syllabus and is suddenly struck by memory loss unable to recall much of what happened in class 15 years earlier much less the title of the course. I don’t blame them. After all, who doesn’t want to leave school behind and forget about it?

You’ve exhausted all resources and left on your own laurels to deal with this dilemma. But what’s the frustrated evaluator to do?

When all else fails, I resort to the one thing I know best and use as my lifeline, and it’s Sic—generally inside square brackets [sic]—added just after a quote or reprinted text, indicating the passage or in my case the abbreviated course title or gobbledygook appearing exactly as shown on the official document. Voila! “[sic]” is my friend when all else fails. I can wash my hands off any errors or apparent errors and move on.

And, if you’re wondering about what “IMC & AHC” stands for, drum roll please….it stands for “Instrument Meteorological Conditions and Aircraft Handling Characteristics.” Not bad for a hard day’s work!

The Frustrated Evaluator


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