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Uses and Abuses of Language
1. George Orwell created the term 'doublespeak'. It first appeared in his book '1984', written in 1947. '1984' was about a nightmare concerning a government (known as Big Brother) who was perpetually at war, who decided for itself what was right or wrong, and who controlled every action of its citizens through the use of constant surveillance. Doublespeak was defined as euphemisms, jargon, question-begging, equivocation, and sheer cloudy vagueness. Essentially it was language that is used to lie or mislead, while pretending to tell the truth. Its goal was to numb the reader or listener into submission or to induce brain fog. Orwell wrote that the "great enemy of language was insincerity, where there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims".
2. Doublespeak is language that makes the bad seem good, the negative appear positive, the unpleasant appear attractive or at least tolerable. Doublespeak includes words that appear to mean the opposite of what they actually mean. For example, the Clear Skies initiative would weaken many parts of the Clean Air Act and would result in significantly fewer reductions of air pollutants than currently required.
Doublespeak is language that shifts responsibility, language that is at variance with its real or purported meaning. It conceals or prevents thought; rather than extending thought, doublespeak limits it. Doublespeak is a matter of words and facts agreeing. Basic to it is incongruity between what is said or left unsaid, and what really is. What doublespeak does: mislead, distort, deceive, inflate, and circumvent. It turns lies of politicians into 'strategic misrepresentations', 'reality augmentation', or 'terminological inexactitudes'. As doublespeak fills our public discourse, people have become more and more hardened to its presence. Our tolerance for double-speak has increased along with the growth of doublespeak. While simple examples usually elicit some contemptuous remarks, the skillful and subtle forms of doublespeak too often go unchallenged and unanlyzed. Doublespeak corrupts public discourse and ultimately undermines that which holds us together as a nation.
3. From Wikipedia:
Doublespeak is language deliberately constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning, often resulting in a communication bypass. Such language is often associated with governmental, military, religious, and corporate institutions and its deliberate use by these is what distinguishes it from other euphemisms. Doublespeak may be in the form of bald euphemisms ("downsizing" for "firing of many employees", "enhanced interrogation techniques" for torture) or deliberately ambiguous phrases ("wet work" for "assassination", "take out" for "destroy","red tape" for "bureaucracy") .
4) Names of bills that were proposed or passed by the U.S. Congress that appear to be the opposite of what their name implies:
a) Clear Skies Act - (would actually weaken sulfur and mercury standards. While the Clean Air Act calls for a 70 percent reduction in power-plant mercury emissions by 2008, Clear Skies would delay that reduction until 2018. And the proposal does nothing to address global warming.)
b) Healthy Forests Restoration Act - (signed into law in late 2003, hot on the heels of a deadly wildfire season in the West. The initiative is based on the fallacy that landscape-wide logging will decrease forest fires. U.S. Forest Service scientists have warned that logging can increase fire risk.)
c) The Personal Responsibility Act - (reduces welfare payments to the poor)
d) Senior Citizens Fairness Act - (gives tax relief to wealthy retirees)
e) The American Dream Restoration Act - (provides tax breaks for families who have surplus income to put into retirement accounts)
f) Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act - (gives preferential tax treatment to capital-gains income)
g) The Family Time and Workplace Flexibility Act - (new rules to erode the 40-hour workweek)
5. Bush-speak: Bush, with his seemingly limitless ability to mangle the English language, may avoid long words, but he is adept at exploiting stock phrases and cliches to create impressions that are invariably at odds with his real intentions. What makes him effective is his mastery of emotional language. He uses several techniques to seduce his audience. He is a wizard at making faulty generalizations believable. By reducing the complexity of the issues, he leaves his listeners absolutely relieved that he is in office. The polls continue to show that his political agenda is not consistent with most American values, but the public, under the influence of his 'doublespeak' is susceptible to his charismatic persuasion.
6. NOTE: When it is unclear to you whether a word or phrase is precisely jargon or a euphemism, it should at least be labeled as doublespeak.