COMPANION

Terminology

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.[1] 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 . . .[2]

In CCC he several times makes reference to the shortcomings of words.[3]

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’.[4]

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.[5]

In a private letter Alexander also wrote: ‘You are right, words are a curse and for the reason given in CCC.’[6]

Articles

  • ‘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.[7]
  • Several papers in Ron Dennis’ collected writings, Alexander Revisited by Ron Dennis considers terminology, wordings, and definitions.[8]
  • ‘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.[9]
  • ‘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.[10]
  • ‘The challenge of a common vocabulary’ by Sarah Barker reports on her reflections following the 2012 ‘Experiencing the embodied mind’ meeting.[11]
  • ‘Explaining the Alexander Technique’ by John Nicholls; on presenting the Technique to beginners while avoiding the jargon of the Alexander Technique.[12]
  • ‘A new perspective on “The Use of the Self”’ by Anthony Kingsley includes a criticism of Alexander’s choice of words including inhibition, direction and primary control.[13]

See also Communication – Words, and also under individual teaching concepts.

References

[1] ‘Introductory notes’ in Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), pp. xx-xxv.
[2] Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 5.
[3] Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. 113.
[4] Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual by F. Matthias Alexander, (Mouritz, 2004), p. p. 70 (see also p. 83).
[5] The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), p. xxxi.
[6] Quoted in The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), pp. xxii-xxiii.
[7] ‘Looking to the future’ by Douglass Price-Williams in The Alexander Review vol. 3, no. 3 (Centerline Press, Winter 1988), pp. 16–20.
[8] Alexander Revisited – Contemplation & Criticism 1979-2014 by Ron Dennis (Alexander Technique of Atlanta, 2014).
[9] ‘Some proposed changes to Alexander’s terminology’ by Alex Maunder in STATNews vol. 5, no. 4 edited by Malcolm Williamson (STAT, May 1999), pp. 8–9.
[10] ‘Alexander’s terminological maze’ by Peter Ribeaux in Conscious Control vol. 2 no. 1, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2008), pp. 43–53.
[11] ‘The challenge of a common vocabulary’ by Sarah Barker in STATNews vol. 8, no. 2 edited by Jamie McDowell (STAT, January 2013), pp. 29–32.
[12] ‘Explaining the Alexander Technique’ by John Nicholls in STATNews vol. 8, no. 7 edited by Jamie McDowell (STAT, September 2014), pp. 19–20.
[13] ‘A new perspective on “The Use of the Self”’by Anthony Kinglsey in The Alexander Journal no. 28 edited by Paul Marsh and Jamie McDowell (STAT, 2021), pp. 3–10.