Saturday, May 25, 2013

Less Words; Fewer Meaning: Badspeak

Fist Edition cover, 1949 (from: Wikipedia)

"To paraphrase Orwell, the English of the world wide web – loose, informal, and distressingly dyspeptic – is not really the kind people want to read in a book, a magazine, or even a newspaper. But there's an assumption that that, because it's part of the all-conquering internet, we cannot do a thing about it. Twenty-first century civilisation has been transformed in a way without precedent since the invention of moveable type. English prose, so one argument runs, must adapt to the new lexicon with all its grammatical violations and banality. Language is normative; it has – some will say – no choice. The violence the internet does to the English language is simply the cost of doing business in the digital age.
     From this, any struggle against the abuse and impoverishment of English online (notably, in blogs and emails) becomes what Orwell called 'a sentimental archaism.' Behind this belief lies the recognition that language is a natural growth and not an instrument we can police for better self-expression."
— Robert McCrum, The Guardian
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"The word doublespeak was coined in the early 1950s. It is often incorrectly attributed to George Orwell and his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The word actually never appears in that novel; Orwell did, however, coin Newspeak, Oldspeak, duckspeak (speaking from the throat without thinking 'like a duck') and doublethink (holding '…simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them…'), and his novel made fashionable composite nouns with speak as the second element, which were previously unknown in English. It was therefore just a matter of time before someone came up with doublespeak.
     Doublespeak may be considered, in Orwell's lexicography, as the B vocabulary of Newspeak, words 'deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.'"
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