Obfuscation is the obscuring of the intended meaning of communication by making the message difficult to understand, usually with confusing and ambiguous language. The obfuscation might be either unintentional or intentional (although intent usually is connoted), and is accomplished with circumlocution (talking around the subject), the use of jargon (technical language of a profession), and the use of an argot (ingroup language) of limited communicative value to outsiders.
In expository writing, unintentional obfuscation usually occurs in draft documents, at the beginning of composition; such obfuscation is illuminated with critical thinking and editorial revision, either by the writer or by an editor. Etymologically, the word obfuscation derives from the Latin obfuscationem, from obfuscāre (to darken); synonyms include the words beclouding and abstrusity.
Doctors are faulted for using jargon to conceal unpleasant facts from a patient; the American author and physician Michael Crichton said that medical writing is a "highly skilled, calculated attempt to confuse the reader". The psychologist B. F. Skinner said that medical notation is a form of multiple audience control, which allows the doctor to communicate to the pharmacist things which the patient might oppose if they could understand medical jargon.
"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 in much of the audience (those lacking the vocabulary), 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.
White box cryptography
In network security, obfuscation refers to methods used to obscure an attack payload from inspection by network protection systems.
Examples in literature:
- In Animal Farm, the pigs such as Squealer and Snowball use obfuscation to confuse the other animals with long words in order to prevent any uprisings.
- The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Tom McArthur, Ed., (1992) p. 543.
- Skinner, B.F. (1957) Verbal Behavior p. 232
- United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA Technical Memorandum (1959), p. 171.
- Chow S, Eisen P, Johnson H, et al. A white-box DES implementation for DRM applications[M]//Digital Rights Management. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2002: 1-15.
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