Obfuscation

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For the term as used in computer science, see obfuscation (software).

Obfuscation (or beclouding) is the hiding of intended meaning in communication, making communication confusing, willfully ambiguous, and harder to interpret.[citation needed]. The word comes from Latin obfuscatio, from obfuscāre (“to darken”), from ob (“over”) and fuscāre (“to make dark”), from fuscus (“dark”). Obfustication is a common variant, especially in British English.

Background[edit]

Obfuscation may be used for many purposes. Doctors have been accused of using jargon to conceal unpleasant facts from a patient; American author Michael Crichton claimed that medical writing is a "highly skilled, calculated attempt to confuse the reader".[1] B. F. Skinner, noted psychologist, commented on medical notation as a form of multiple audience control, which allows the doctor to communicate to the pharmacist things which might be opposed by the patient if they could understand it.[2] Similarly text-based language, like some forms of leet, are obfuscated to make them incomprehensible to outsiders.

Eschew obfuscation[edit]

"Eschew obfuscation", also stated as "eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation", is a humorous fumblerule used by English teachers and professors when lecturing about proper writing techniques. Literally, the phrase means "avoid being unclear" or "avoid being unclear, support being clear", but the use of relatively uncommon words causes confusion, making the statement an example of irony, and more precisely a heterological phrase. The phrase has appeared in print at least as early as 1959, when it was used as a section heading in a NASA document.[3]

An earlier similar phrase appears in Mark Twain's Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses,[4] where he lists rule fourteen of good writing as "eschew surplusage".

The philosopher Paul Grice used the phrase in the "Maxim of Manner", one of the Gricean maxims.

White box cryptography[edit]

In white-box cryptography, obfuscation refers to the protection of cryptographic keys from extraction when they are under the control of the adversary, e.g., as part of a DRM scheme.

Network security[edit]

In network security, obfuscation refers to methods used to obscure an attack payload from inspection by network protection systems.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Appendix 25 - Medspeak
  2. ^ Skinner, B.F. (1957) Verbal Behavior p.232
  3. ^ United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA Technical Memorandum (1959), p. 171.
  4. ^ Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses (1895)

External links[edit]