I was reading one of James R. Rummel's blog posts
on the fanatical application of terminology in the gun world. James had written about a new shooter who was turned off at a gun store by a clerk who wanted to display his vast knowledge of the English language. I felt compelled to post a few words. Here is my comment (after the miracle of spell checking and a bit of revision):
The problem wasn't the definitions of words, but the contempt and arrogance of the counter clerk, which was based on ignorance, towards the customer.
A revolver is a pistol, but not all pistols are revolvers. I'm occasionally called to task on this, as Matt G (correctly) did in the comments of this post.
The thing is, using the terms as indicators of separate objects can enhance the message you are trying to convey. In that particular article, I explained my usage up front because I believe the Smith & Wesson J frame, particularly the Bodyguard type, is one of the best fighting handguns ever designed, assuming all you need is five shots. And most of the time, for a civilian, five shots is sufficient. I simply did not want to say that the new Series 90 Colt 1911s such as the Defender and New Agent were superior fighting handguns to the Smith & Wesson J frame. Yet, I was still taken to task because I quantified definitions in my blog post.
The stubborn usage of definitions works both ways. Perhaps we should just use the terms spinny thing guns and reciprocating thing guns. Heaven help us if we start talking about slides and bolts, or clips and mags. Then there are guns, as opposed to rifles, as opposed to artillery.
Our fanatical usage of terminology turns off new shooters by the droves. They see past this verbal malarkey, and just want to learn to shoot. They want to learn to shoot something, and most don't care what it's called. Perhaps they are smarter than those of us who seek to refine the terminology, painting ourselves into an ever smaller corner with stubbornness.
The truth is, every object has descriptive terms that define them more and more specifically. For example: instrument, pointy thing, sharp, knife, blade, scalpel, #11 on a flat. Used properly, the terms are inclusive or exclusive to convey the meanings we wish to communicate. It's all about communication, and gunnies tend to suck at communication when they get all wrapped up in self aggrandizement over esoterica.
When dealing with a person new to firearms, we need to communicate on their level, not arrogantly look at them with contempt because they have not yet learned the jargon that allows them to communicate on ours.
Let's not alienate people new to shooting sports with misguided attempts to prove our intellectual superiority. If we do that, we will fail.