This entry deals with Alexander Technique terminology (‘jargon’) in general. For the use of words to communicate the Technique, see Communication – Words.
F. M. Alexander on the use of words
Alexander’s terminology changed over the years as he developed his practice and theory. There are several instances of Alexander alerting the reader to the inadequacy of words, for example, when using the words ‘physical’ and ‘mental’:
I am forced to use the words ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ here and throughout my argument because there are no other words at present which adequately express the manifestations of psycho-physical activity present at these various stages . . .
In CCC he several times makes reference to the shortcomings of words.
He also points out that our conception of the written or spoken word ‘is conditioned by the standard of the psycho-physical functioning of the individual’.
The problem of words continued to plague him. As he wrote in the 1941 UCL:
Another source of misunderstanding has arisen through my choice of words for which I have often been criticized.
In a private letter Alexander also wrote: ‘You are right, words are a curse and for the reason given in CCC.’
‘Looking to the future’ by Douglass Price-Williams lists three problems which he considers are built-in to the nature of the Technique; the first is language difficulties.
Several papers in Ron Dennis’ collected writings, Alexander Revisited by Ron Dennis considers terminology, wordings, and definitions.
‘Some proposed changes to Alexander’s terminology’ by Alex Maunder argues for substituting ‘giving directions’ with ‘thought projections’, ‘inhibition’ with ‘creative indifference’, ‘end gaining’ with ‘goal oriented’, etc.
‘Alexander’s terminological maze’ by Peter Ribeaux asserts that Alexander’s problematic terminology has practical consequences. It is argued that there is a strong correlation between our understanding of the basic concepts of the Technique and of our teaching and practising the Technique.
‘The challenge of a common vocabulary’ by Sarah Barker reports on her reflections following the 2012 ‘Experiencing the embodied mind’ meeting.
‘Explaining the Alexander Technique’ by John Nicholls; on presenting the Technique to beginners while avoiding the jargon of the Alexander Technique.
See also Communication – Words, and individual teaching concepts.