As has recently been explained, terminology is important – and not only because I say it is. Seeing the use of correct terminology as either a nuisance or something not worth the effort of learning has a way of breaking things down not only within the industry but outside it. For example, countless members of the mainstream media enjoy referring to the ArmaLite Rifle as an assault rifle. More fiction authors than I care to consider apparently think they don’t need to know which end of the gun the bullet exits to write about guns, and the results are fairly disastrous. But it isn’t just about those who report or write; this is about the fact that you do not refer to a hammer as a screwdriver, a dog as a cat, or a rattlesnake as a worm. Words matter. After all, if you describe a malfunction simply as a “jam” I won’t be able to help you without finding out what actually happened.
So, what happens when you use words interchangeably? According to one gun store owner, the result is the following picture (apparently there was a bit of confusion about “clip” and “magazine”):
The story attached to the picture is that a customer entered the gun store with the pictured problem. He wanted to load his magazines faster. He couldn’t figure out why the magazine wasn’t functioning in any way whatsoever – or why it wouldn’t unload. He didn’t understand that a clip is not a magazine, and vice versa. He thought they worked together. Looks like the much-fabled “clipazine” has finally come to pass. (Yes, it might be a prank, but it’s still entertaining – and reinforces a few things).
Using the right words to describe an action or define an object makes it significantly easier for those listening to understand you. It prevents confusion, simplifies conversations, and cuts through the b.s. when someone intentionally tries to muddy the waters. There is a widely misattributed quote that says “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt.” If you don’t know what a certain component is called, find out (from a reliable source). If you do know, then use the correct term. Guys such as the poor, hapless customer behind the “clipazine” creation will thank you.