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Groupspeak Satire Essays

This article is about the fictional language of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. For the computer language, see Newspeak (programming language).

Newspeak is the language of Oceania, a fictional totalitarian state ruled by the Party, who created the language to meet the ideological requirements of English Socialism (Ingsoc).[1] In the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), Newspeak is a controlled language, of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought—personal identity, self-expression, free will—that ideologically threatens the régime of Big Brother and the Party, who thus criminalized such concepts as thoughtcrime, contradictions of Ingsoc orthodoxy.[2][3][4]

In "The Principles of Newspeak", the appendix to the novel, George Orwell explains that Newspeak usage follows most of the English grammar, yet is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning.[5] Linguistically, the contractions of Newspeak—Ingsoc (English Socialism), Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), etc.—derive from the syllabic abbreviations of Russian, which identify the government and social institutions of the Soviet Union, such as politburo (Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union), Comintern (Communist International), kolkhoz (collective farm), and Komsomol (Young Communists' League). The long-term political purpose of the new language is for every member of the Party and society, except the Proles—the working-class of Oceania—to exclusively communicate in Newspeak, by the year A.D. 2050; during that 66-year transition, the usage of Oldspeak (Standard English) shall remain interspersed among Newspeak conversations.[6]

Newspeak is also a constructed language, of planned phonology, grammar, and vocabulary, like Basic English, which Orwell promoted (1942–44) during the Second World War (1939–45), and later rejected in the essay "Politics and the English Language" (1946), wherein he criticises the bad usage of English in his day: dying metaphors, pretentious diction, and high-flown rhetoric, which produce the meaningless words of doublespeak, the product of unclear reasoning. Orwell's conclusion thematically reiterates linguistic decline: "I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this may argue that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development, by any direct tinkering with words or constructions."[7]



See also: Germanic strong verb

The grammar of Newspeak has two characteristics: (i) the virtual interchangeability of linguistic function (noun, verb, adverb, adjective, etc.) among the parts of speech; (ii) the inflectional regularity in the construction and usages of words. In all verbs, the preterite and the past participle constructions are alike, ending in –ed; hence, the preterite of steal is stealed and that of think is thinked.[8]


Because Newspeak has no antonyms, the prefix "Un-" is used for negation; thus, the Standard-English word warm becomes "uncold" in Newspeak. Moreover, the intellectual concept communicated with the word bad is expressed as ungood. When the prefix is appended to a verb, "un-" communicates a negative imperative mood, thus, the Newspeak unproceed means "do not proceed" in Standard English.

  • "Plus-" is an intensifier that replaces more and the suffix -er; plusgood replaced the English words "great" and "better".
  • "Doubleplus-" increases the intensity of the "plus-" intensifier; doubleplusgood replaced the words "excellent" and "best".


  • "-ful" is a Newspeak suffix that turns another word into an adjective (e.g., "speedful" instead of rapid).
  • "-ed" is the only method of making a non-auxiliary verb past tense in the A-vocabulary. This decreases the number of words required to express tenses by removing irregular conjugations. Ran becomes runned, drank becomes drinked, etc.
  • "-wise" is a Newspeak suffix used to turn another word into an adverb; for example, quickly would be speedwise. Therefore, "He ran very quickly" would become "He runned plus-speedwise."

Synonyms and antonyms[edit]

The political purpose of Newspeak is to eliminate ambiguity and nuance (shades of meaning) from the language, and so reduce the language to simple concepts—pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, goodthink and crimethink—that reinforce the totalitarian dominance of the State. In Newspeak, root words function as nouns and verbs, which practice further reduced the total number of words available to the speaker; for example, think is both noun and verb, thus, the word thought is not required to communicate thought, and can be abolished from the language. The Party also intend that Newspeak be spoken in staccato rhythm with syllables that are easy to pronounce, which shall facilitate automatic and unconscious speech, thereby diminishing the likelihood of critical thought.[9]

Words with comparative and superlative meanings were simplified; thus, "better" becomes plusgood and "best" becomes "doubleplusgood".

Adjectives are formed by adding the suffix –ful to a root-word, e.g. goodthinkful means "Orthodox in thought."; adverbs are formed by adding the suffix –wise, e.g. goodthinkwise means "In an orthodox manner."

Thought control[edit]

"The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever."[10]

The Oldspeak word free existed in Newspeak, but could only be used in terms of something not present, as in the sentences "The dog is free from lice." and "This field is free from weeds." Politically, the word free could not denote free will, because such a humanist concept does not exist in the society of Oceania.[11] The linguistic design of Newspeak is for thought control, by diminishment of the user's range of thought, which is realised with a minimal vocabulary of limited denotation and connotation; hence words such as: crimethink (thought crime), doublethink (accepting contradictory beliefs), and Ingsoc (English Socialism).[10]

The character Syme discusses his work on the latest edition of the Newspeak Dictionary: "By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of The Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "Freedom is Slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."[7]


See also: List of Newspeak words

As a controlled language, Newspeak influences and limits thought by decreasing the range of expressiveness of the English language, wherein words serve as nouns and as verbs; thus, the word crimethink denotes "a thoughtcrime" (noun) and the action "to commit thoughtcrime" (verb). The adjective is formed with the suffix "–ful" (crimethinkful) and the adverb is formed with the suffix "–wise" (crimethinkwise).

The few irregular-form words, such as Minitrue (Ministry of Truth), Minipax (Ministry of Peace), Miniplenty (Ministry of Plenty), and Miniluv (Ministry of Love) identify the government ministries of the Party. The superlative forms of words are formed with the addition of the positive prefix "plus–" (plusgood) and with the negative prefix "un–" (ungood). To communicate a greater degree, either of negativity or of positivity, requires affixing the prefix double to the other two prefixes to the root word good (doubleplusungood), as in the phrases "Big Brother is doubleplusgood" and "Emmanuel Goldstein is doubleplusungood".

A, B, and C vocabularies[edit]

The words of the A vocabulary describe the functional concepts of everyday-life activities (eating and drinking, working and cooking, etc.), and is composed of words from Oldspeak (Standard English).

The words of the B vocabulary are deliberately constructed to convey complicated ideas; compound words (noun-verb) of political implication meant to impose upon and instill to the user the politically correct mental attitude required by Party, e.g. the Newspeak word goodthink connotes "political orthodoxy", and inflected according to the grammar of Oldspeak.

The words of the C vocabulary are technical terms that supplement the linguistic functions of the A and B vocabularies. Distributions of various fields within the overall C vocabulary are implemented on a need-to-know basis, because the Party do not want the citizens of Oceania to know more than one technique of life and production. Hence, there is no Newspeak word for science; instead, there are specific words for different fields.


The word bellyfeel refers to a blind, enthusiastic acceptance of an idea.

"Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Times leading article as Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc. The shortest rendering one could make of this in Oldspeak would be: 'Those whose ideas were formed before the Revolution cannot have a full emotional understanding of the principles of English Socialism.' But this is not an adequate translation. [...] [O]nly a person thoroughly grounded in Ingsoc could appreciate the full force of the word bellyfeel, which implied a blind, enthusiastic and casual acceptance difficult to imagine today." — Orwell's 1984 appendix[12]


The word blackwhite denotes the Newspeak user's ability to believe that black is white, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. Yet it has two contradictory connotations: (i) Applied to an opponent of Ingsoc ("Impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts") and (ii) applied to a member of the Party ("A loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands"). Moreover, as Newspeak, the word blackwhite also is an example of the Party's doublethink, which re-writes the past.


Crimethink is the Newspeak word for thoughtcrime (thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform), as well as the verb meaning "to commit thoughtcrime". Goodthink, which is approved by the Party, is the opposite of crimethink. Winston Smith, the main character, writes in his diary, "Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death."


Duckspeak is a Newspeak term that means "to quack like a duck" (literal meaning) or "to speak without thinking". Duckspeak can be good or "ungood" (bad) depending on who is speaking, and whether what they are saying aligns with Big Brother's ideals. To speak rubbish and lies may be "ungood", but to do so for the benefit of The Party may be good. Orwell explains in the appendix: "Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak […]. Like various words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment."

An example of duckspeak in action is provided in chapter 9, when an Inner Party speaker is haranguing the crowd about the crimes of Eurasia when a note is passed into his hand. He never stops speaking or changes his inflection, but (according to the changed Party position) he now condemns the crimes of Eastasia, which is Oceania's new enemy.

Goodsex and sexcrime[edit]

"Sexcrime (1984)" redirects here. For the Eurythmics song, see Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four) (song).

The term goodsex describes the forms of sexual intercourse that the Party deem morally acceptable behaviour for the rank-and-file members of the Party. Specifically, goodsex denotes only heterosexual relations exclusively for procreation; and no pleasure (sexual or emotional) for the woman. All other forms of sexual relations are classified as sexcrime (sexual immorality).[13]


Ownlife refers to the tendency to enjoy being solitary or individualistic, which is considered subversive. Winston Smith comments that even to go for a walk by oneself can be regarded as suspicious.


See also: Nonperson

An unperson is someone who has been "vaporized"—not only killed by the state, but erased from existence. Such a person would be written out of existing books, photographs and articles so that no trace of their existence could be found in the historical record. The idea is that such a person would, according to the principles of doublethink, be forgotten completely (for it would be impossible to provide evidence of their existence), even by close friends and family.

Mentioning an unperson's name, or even speaking of their past existence, is itself thoughtcrime; the concept that the person may have existed at one time and has disappeared cannot be expressed in Newspeak.

See also[edit]

Totalitarian regimes:



  1. ^George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  2. ^The Oxford Companion to the English Language, Tom McArthur, Ed. (1992) p. 693.
  3. ^Sparknotes on Newspeak accessdate=2017-01-26
  4. ^Moellerlit Newspeak dictionary accessdate=2017-01-16
  5. ^George Orwell (1980) p. 918.
  6. ^George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  7. ^ abOrwell, George (1949). Nineteen Eighty-Four. Secker and Warburg. ISBN 978-0-452-28423-4. 
  8. ^George Orwell (1980) pp. 918–19.
  9. ^George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  10. ^ ab"The Principles of Newspeak". Archived from the original on 17 February 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013. 
  11. ^George Orwell (1980) p. 917.
  12. ^George Orwell (1949). 1984. Arcturus Publishing (published 4 January 2014). pp. 229–. ISBN 978-1-78404-373-5. 
  13. ^George Orwell (1980) p. 921.

Further reading[edit]

  • Burgess, Anthony. Nineteen Eighty-Five. Boston: Little Brown & Co, 1978. ISBN 0-316-11651-3. Anthony Burgess discusses the plausibility of Newspeak.
  • Green, Jonathon. Newspeak: a dictionary of jargon. London, Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985, 1984. ISBN 0-7102-0673-9.
  • "Find in a library: Newspeak: A dictionary of Jargon", by Jonathon Green. Retrieved 21 April 2006.
  • Klemperer, Victor. LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen.. Original German language editions.
  • Klemperer, Victor & Watt, Roderick H. LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook. Lewiston: E. Mellen Press, 1997. ISBN 0-7734-8681-X. An annotated edition of Victor Klemperer's LTI, Notizbuch eines Philologen with English notes and commentary by Roderick H. Watt.
  • Klemperer, Victor & Brady, Martin (tr.). The language of the Third Reich: LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist's Notebook. London, UK; New Brunswick, NJ: Athlone Press, 2000. ISBN 0-485-11526-3 (alk. paper). Translated by Martin Brady.
  • Young, John Wesley . Totalitarian Language: Orwell's Newspeak and Its Nazi and Communist Antecedents. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1991. ISBN 0-8139-1324-1. John Wesley Young wrote this scholarly work about Newspeak and historical examples of language control.
  • An independent compilation of the Newspeak language
  • The Principles of Newspeak
  • George Orwell's 1984
  • New Examples of Newspeak
To realise English Socialism (Ingsoc) in Oceania, the Party created the controlled language of Newspeak to ensure universal orthodoxy of ideology and politics among the populace.

For the song by American metalcore band Myka Relocate, see Lies to Light the Way.

Not to be confused with Double-talk.

Doublespeak is a language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs, "servicing the target" for bombing[1]), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language.[2][3]

Origins and concepts[edit]

The term "doublespeak" originates in George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four. Although the term is not used in the book, it is a close relative of two of the book's central concepts, "doublethink" and "Newspeak". Another variant, "doubletalk", also referring to deliberately ambiguous speech, did exist at the time Orwell wrote his book, but the usage of "doublespeak" as well as of "doubletalk" in the sense emphasizing ambiguity clearly postdates the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four.[4][5] Parallels have also been drawn between doublespeak and Orwell's classic essay Politics and the English Language, which discusses the distortion of language for political purposes.[6]

Edward S. Herman, political economist and media analyst, has highlighted some examples of doublespeak and doublethink in modern society.[7] Herman describes in his book, Beyond Hypocrisy the principal characteristics of doublespeak:

What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.[8]

In his essay "Politics and the English Language", George Orwell observes that political language serves to distort and obfuscate reality. Orwell’s description of political speech is extremely similar to the contemporary definition of doublespeak;

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible … Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness … the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, ...[9]

Theoretical approaches[edit]

Although the theories that premise doublespeak are still indefinite, there are some theories that have parallels with the theory of doublespeak and Orwell's ideology in Nineteen Eighty-Four and might possibly provide a better understanding of where doublespeak's theories could have come from.

Conflict theories[edit]

Due to the inherently deceptive nature of doublespeak as well as its prominent use in politics and religion, doublespeak has been linked[by whom?] to the sociological perspective known as conflict theories. Conflict theories detract from ideas of society being naturally in harmony, instead placing emphasis on political and material inequality as its structural features. Antonio Gramsci's concepts on cultural hegemony, in particular, suggest that the culture and values of the economic elite – the bourgeoisie – become indoctrinated as "common sense" to the working-class, allowing for the maintenance of the status quo through misplaced belief. Being himself one of the leaders of the Communist Party of Italy, his theories had, in turn, been strongly influenced by the German social thinker Karl Marx, and have their ideological roots grounded in Marxist theory of false consciousness and capitalist exploitation. While Gramsci's views argue that culture (beliefs, perceptions and values) allows the ruling class to maintain domination, Marx's explanation is along more economic lines, with concepts such as commodity fetishism demonstrating how the ideology of the bourgeoisie (in this case, the existence of property as a social creation rather than an "eternal entity") dominate over that of the working classes.[10] In both cases, both philosophers argue that one view – that of the bourgeoisie – dominates over others, hence the term conflict theories.

On the other hand, Terrence P. Moran of the US National Council of Teachers of English has compared the use of doublespeak in the mass media to laboratory experiments conducted on rats, where a batch of rats were deprived of food, before one half was fed sugar and water and the other half a saccharin solution. Both groups exhibited behavior indicating that their hunger was satisfied, but rats in the second group (which were fed saccharin solution) died from malnutrition. Moran highlights the structural nature of doublespeak, and notes that social institutions such as the mass media adopt an active, top-down approach in managing opinion. Therefore, Moran parallels doublespeak to producing an illusionary effect:

This experiment suggests certain analogies between the environments created for rats by the scientists and the environments created for us humans by language and the various mass media of communication. Like the saccharine environment, an environment created or infiltrated by doublespeak provides the appearance of nourishment and the promise of survival, but the appearance is illusionary and the promise false.[11]

Contemporary writings[edit]

Doublespeak might also have some connections with contemporary theories. Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky note in their book that Orwellian doublespeak is an important component of the manipulation of the English language in American media, through a process called "dichotomization"; a component of media propaganda involving "deeply embedded double standards in the reporting of news". For example, the use of state funds by the poor and financially needy is commonly referred to as "social welfare" or "handouts", which the "coddled" poor "take advantage of". These terms, however, do not apply to other beneficiaries of government spending such as military spending.[12]

Examples of the structural nature of the use of Doublespeak have been made by modern scholars. Noam Chomsky argues in Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media that people in modern society consist of decision-makers and social participants who have to be made to agree.[13] According to Chomsky, the media and public relations industry actively shape public opinion, working to present messages in line with their economic agenda for the purposes of controlling of the "public mind".[13] Contrary to the popular belief that indoctrination is inconsistent with democracy, Chomsky goes so far as to argue that "it's the essence of democracy".[13]

The point is that in a ... totalitarian state, it doesn't much matter what people think because ... you can control what they do. But when the state loses the bludgeon, when you can't control people by force and when the voice of the people can be heard, ... you have to control what people think. And the standard way to do this is to resort to what in more honest days used to be called propaganda. Manufacture of consent. Creation of necessary illusions.[13]

Edward Herman's book Beyond Hypocrisy also includes a doublespeak dictionary of commonly employed media terms and phrases into plain English.

Henceforth, conflict theories demonstrate the dominating ideology of the bourgeoisie and Moran's theory highlights that doublespeak produces an illusionary effect, both theories having parallels to Orwell's ideology in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Similarly, Herman's theory of doublespeak having an inherent nature to be manipulative and Chomsky's theory of "dichotomization" relates directly to the practice of doublespeak and how doublespeak is deliberately deceptive in nature.

Main contributors[edit]

William Lutz[edit]

William D. Lutz has served as the third chairman of the Doublespeak Committee since 1975. In 1989, both his own book Doublespeak and, under his editorship, the committee's third book, Beyond Nineteen Eighty-Four, were published. Lutz was also the former editor of the now defunct Quarterly Review of Doublespeak, which examines ways that jargon has polluted the public vocabulary with phrases, words and usages of words designed to obscure the meaning of plain English. His book, Beyond Nineteen Eighty-Four, consists of 220 pages and eighteen articles contributed by long-time Committee members and others whose body of work has made important contributions to understandings about language, as well as a bibliography of 103 sources on doublespeak.[14]

Lutz is one of the main contributors to the committee as well as promoting the term "doublespeak" to a mass audience so as to inform them of the deceptive qualities that doublespeak contains. He mentions:

There is more to being an effective consumer of language than just expressing dismay at dangling modifiers, faulty subject and verb agreement, or questionable usage. All who use language should be concerned whether statements and facts agree, whether language is, in Orwell's words, "largely the defense of the indefensible" and whether language "is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind".[15]

He also mentions that the NCTE Committee on Public Doublespeak and their works with regards to educating the public on doublespeak is responsible for "the rather awesome task of combating the advertisers, the politicians, and the major manipulators of public language in our society".[15]

Lutz states that it is important to highlight doublespeak to the public because "language isn't the invention of human beings to lie, deceive, mislead, and manipulate" and the "purpose of language is to communicate the truth and to facilitate social groups getting together". Thus, according to Lutz, doublespeak is a form of language that defeats the purpose of inventing language because doublespeak does not communicate the truth but seeks to do the opposite and the doublespeak committee is tasked with correcting this problem that doublespeak has created in the world of language.[16]

NCTE Committee on Public Doublespeak[edit]

Main article: National Council of Teachers of English

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Committee on Public Doublespeak was formed in 1971, in the midst of the Watergate scandal, at a point when there was widespread skepticism about the degree of truth which characterized relationships between the public and the worlds of politics, the military, and business. NCTE passed two resolutions. One called for the Council to find means to study dishonest and inhumane uses of language and literature by advertisers, to bring offenses to public attention, and to propose classroom techniques for preparing children to cope with commercial propaganda. The other called for the Council to find means to study the relations of language to public policy, to keep track of, publicize, and combat semantic distortion by public officials, candidates for office, political commentators, and all those who transmit through the mass media. Bringing the charges of the two resolutions to life was accomplished by forming NCTE's Committee on Public Doublespeak, a body which has made significant contributions in describing the need for reform where clarity in communication has been deliberately distorted. Such structures can be applied to the field of education, where they could conceivably initiate an anti-pollution bandwagon in educational communication and educate people on how to counter doublespeak.[17]

William Lutz stated that "the doublespeak committee was formed to combat the use of public language by increasing people's awareness of what is good, clear, solid use of language and what is not." "The committee does more than help students and the general public recognize what doublespeak is; it dramatizes that clarity of expression reflects clarity of thought."[15]

Hugh Rank[edit]

Hugh Rank formed the Doublespeak committee and was the first chairman of this committee. Under his editorship, the committee produced a book called Language and Public Policy (1974), with the aim of informing readers of the extensive scope of doublespeak being used to deliberately mislead and deceive the audience. He highlighted the deliberate public misuses of language and provided strategies for countering doublespeak by focusing on educating people in the English language so as to help them identify when doublespeak is being put into play. He was also the founder of the Intensify/Downplay pattern that has been widely used to identify instances of Doublespeak being used.[17]

Daniel Dieterich[edit]

Daniel Dieterich served as the second chairman of the Doublespeak committee after Hugh Rank in 1975. He served as editor of its second publication, Teaching about Doublespeak (1976), which carried forward the Committee's charge to inform teachers of ways of teaching students how to recognize and combat language designed to mislead and misinform.[17]

Criticism of NCTE[edit]

A. M. Tibbetts is one of the main critics of the NCTE, claiming that "the Committee's very approach to the misuse of language and what it calls 'doublespeak' may in the long run limit its usefulness".[18] According to him, the "Committee's use of Orwell is both confused and confusing". The NCTE's publications resonate with George Orwell's name, and allusions to him abound in statements on doublespeak; for example, the committee quoted Orwell's remark that "language is often used as an instrument of social control" in Language and Public Policy. Tibbetts argues that such a relation between NCTE and Orwell's work is contradicting because "the Committee's attitude towards language is liberal, even radical" while "Orwell's attitude was conservative, even reactionary".[18] He also criticizes on the Committee's "continual attack" against linguistic "purism".[18]

Modern uses[edit]

Whereas in the early days of the practice it was considered wrong to construct words to disguise meaning, this is now an accepted[citation needed] and established practice. There is a thriving industry in constructing words without explicit meaning but with particular connotations for new products or companies.[19] Doublespeak is also employed in the field of politics. Hence, education is necessary to recognize and combat against doublespeak-use effectively.

In advertising[edit]

Advertisers can use doublespeak to mask their commercial intent from users, as users' defenses against advertising become more well entrenched.[20] Some are attempting to counter this technique, however, with a number of systems which offer diverse views and information which highlights the manipulative and dishonest methods that advertisers employ.[21]

According to Jacques Ellul, "the aim is not to even modify people’s ideas on a given subject, rather, it is to achieve conformity in the way that people act." He demonstrates this view by offering an example from drug advertising. By using doublespeak in advertisements, aspirin production rose by almost 50 percent from over 23 million pounds in 1960 to over 35 million pounds in 1970.[22]

The rule of parity[edit]

William Lutz's book The Rule of Parity illustrates how doublespeak is being employed in the advertising industry.

Lutz uses the example of parity products: products in which most, if not all, brands in a class or category are of similar quality. To highlight the uniqueness of their product, advertisers may choose to market it differently from their competitors. Advertising is used to create the impression of superiority. This is shown in the first rule of parity, which involves the use of the words "better" and "best". In parity claims, "better" means "best", and "best" means "equal to".[23]

Lutz goes on to say that when advertisers state that their product is "good", it is equivalent in meaning to saying that their product is the best. If all the brands are similar, they must all be similarly good. When they claim that their product is the "best", they mean that the product is as good as the other superior products in its category. Using the toothpaste industry as an example, Lutz says that, because there is no dramatic difference among the products of the major toothpaste companies today, they are equal. However, if all of the different toothpastes are good and equal, there is no need to prove their claim. On the contrary, advertisers cannot market their products as "better" as it is a comparative term, and a claim of superiority.[23]

Education against doublespeak[edit]

Educating students has been suggested by experts to be one of the ways to counter doublespeak. Educating students in the English language is important to help them identify how doublespeak is being used to mislead and conceal information.

Charles Weingartner, one of the founding members of the NCTE committee on Public Doublespeak mentioned: "people do not know enough about the subject (the reality) to recognize that the language being used conceals, distorts, misleads". There is a crucial need for English language teachers to educate and become experts in teaching about linguistic vulnerability. "Teachers of English should teach our students that words are not things, but verbal tokens or signs of things that should finally be carried back to the things that they stand for to be verified. Students should be taught a healthy skepticism about the potential abuse of language but duly warned about the dangers of an unhealthy cynicism."[24]

According to William Lutz: "Only by teaching respect and love for the language can teachers of English instill in students the sense of outrage they should experience when they encounter doublespeak." "Students must first learn to use the language effectively, to understand its beauty and power." "Only by using language well will we come to appreciate the perversion inherent in doublespeak."[25]

Intensify/downplay pattern[edit]

This pattern was formulated by Hugh Rank and is a simple tool designed to teach some basic patterns of persuasion used in political propaganda and commercial advertising. As it was formulated to educate the public on how to counter doublespeak via education, its aim was to reach the widest possible audience of citizens. It was prepared to be incorporated within a wide variety of existing programs and textbooks in English, speech, media, communications, journalism, social studies. The NCTE has endorsed this pattern as a useful way of teaching students to cope with propaganda from any source.

The function of the intensify/downplay pattern is not to dictate what should be discussed but to encourage coherent thought and systematic organization. The pattern works in two ways: intensifying and downplaying. All people intensify and this is done via repetition, association and composition. Downplaying is commonly done via omission, diversion and confusion as they communicate in words, gestures, numbers, et cetera. Individuals can better cope with organized persuasion by recognizing the common ways whereby communication is intensified or downplayed, so as to counter doublespeak.[14]

In politics[edit]

Doublespeak is often used to avoid answering questions or to avoid the public's questions without directly stating that the specific politician is ignoring or rephrasing the question.

Doublespeak Award[edit]

Main article: Doublespeak Award

Doublespeak is often used by politicians for the advancement of their agenda. The Doublespeak Award is an "ironic tribute to public speakers who have perpetuated language that is grossly deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, confusing, or self-centered." It has been issued by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) since 1974.[26] The recipients of the Doublespeak Award are usually politicians, national administration or departments. An example of this is the United States Department of Defense, which won the award three times in 1991, 1993, and 2001 respectively. For the 1991 award, the United States Department of Defense "swept the first six places in the Doublespeak top ten"[27] for using euphemisms like "servicing the target" (bombing) and "force packages" (warplanes). Among the other phrases in contention were "difficult exercise in labor relations", meaning a strike, and "meaningful downturn in aggregate output", an attempt to avoid saying the word "recession".[1]

In comedy[edit]

Doublespeak, particularly when exaggerated, can be used as a device in satirical comedy and social commentary to ironically parody political or bureaucratic establishments intent on obfuscation or prevarication. The television series Yes Minister is notable for its use of this device.Oscar Wilde was an early proponent of this device and a significant influence on Orwell.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ab"Pentagon Is Given an Award, but It's No Prize". The New York Times. November 24, 1991. 
  2. ^Orwell, George (2008). 1984. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-14-103614-4. 
  3. ^Herman 1992.
  4. ^"double, adj.1 and adv.". OED Online. Oxford University Press. 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2013. 
  5. ^"double-talk, n.". OED Online. Oxford University Press. 2012. Retrieved February 6, 2013. 
  6. ^Kehl, D.G.; Livingston, Howard (July 1999). "Doublespeak Detection for the English Classroom". The English Journal. 88 (6): 78. JSTOR 822191. 
  7. ^Herman 1992, p. 25.
  8. ^Herman 1992. p. 3.
  9. ^Orwell, George (1949). 1984. New York: Signet Books. p. 163. 
  10. ^Marx, Karl; Engels, Friedrich (1970). The German Ideology (2004 ed.). International Publishers Co,1970. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0-7178-0302-3. 
  11. ^Moran, Terrence (Oct 1975). "Public Doublespeak; 1984 and Beyond". College English. 37 (2): 224. JSTOR 375076. 
  12. ^Goodwin, Jeff (March 1994). "What's Right (And Wrong) about Left Media Criticism? Herman and Chomsky's Propaganda Model". Sociological Forum. 9 (1): 102–03. doi:10.1007/bf01507710. JSTOR 684944. 
  13. ^ abcdChomsky, Noam; Herman, Edward S. (1991). Manufacturing Consent. 52: Black Rose Books. ISBN 1-55164-002-3. 
  14. ^ abHasselriis, Peter (February 1991). "From Pearl Harbor to Watergate to Kuwait: "Language in Thought and Action"". The English Journal. 80 (2): 28–35. 
  15. ^ abc"A new look at 'doublespeak'". Advertising Age. November 6, 1989. 
  16. ^"Doublespeak; Care in language use, a defense against deception". Christian Science Monitor. November 22, 1982. 
  17. ^ abcZais, Robert S. (September 1978). "Labels, Bandwagons, & Linguistic Pollution in the Field of Education". The English Journal. 67 (6): 51–53. 
  18. ^ abcTibbetts, A.M. (December 1978). "A Case of Confusion: The NCTE Committee on Public Doublespeak". College English. 40 (4): 407–12. 
  19. ^"Doublespeak". 
  20. ^Gibson, Walker (February 1975). "Public Doublespeak: Doublespeak in Advertising". The English Journal. 64 (2). 
  21. ^Hormell, Sidney J. (May 1975). "Public Doublespeak: Cable TV, Media Systems, and Doublespeak (Or) Something Funny Happened to the Message on the Way to the Audience". The English Journal. 64 (5). 
  22. ^Dieterich, Daniel J. (December 1974). "Public Doublespeak: Teaching about Language in the Marketplace". College English. 36 (4): 477–81. 
  23. ^ abHasselriis, Peter (February 1991). "All Toothpastes Are Equal (=Best): William Lutz's "Doublespeak" Doublespeak: From "Revenue Enhancement" to "Terminal Living": How Government, Business, Advertisers, and Others Use Language to Deceive You by William Lutz". The English Journal. 80 (2): 91–92. 
  24. ^Kehl, D.G; Howard Livingston (July 1999). "Doublespeak Detection for the English Classroom". The English Journal. 88 (6). 
  25. ^Lutz, William (March 1988). "Fourteen Years of Doublespeak". The English Journal. 77 (3). JSTOR 818411. 
  26. ^"NCTE: The Doublespeak Award". 
  27. ^Kelly, Tom (December 21, 1991). "Rape trial deserved award for doublespeak". The Gazette (Montreal, Quebec). 


  • Baar, James (2004). Spinspeak II: The Dictionary Of Language Pollution. ISBN 978-1-4184-2742-9. 
  • Bennett, Michael (2015). Oscar Wilde's Society Plays. Springer. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  • Edward S. Herman (1992). Beyond Hypocrisy: Decoding the News in an Age of Propaganda : Including A Doublespeak Dictionary for the 1990s. Black Rose Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-895431-48-3. 
  • Herron, Fred (2007). Combing the Tradition: Catholic Schools in the Era of Baptismal Consciousness. University Press of America. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  • Killeen, Jarlath (2013). The Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 
  • Lutz, William. (1987). Doublespeak: From "Revenue Enhancement" to "Terminal Living": How Government, Business, Advertisers, and Others Use Language to Deceive You. New York: Harper & Row
  • Lutz, William (1989). Beyond 1984: Doublespeak in a Post-Orwellian Age. National Council of Teachers of English. ISBN 978-0-8141-0285-5. 
  • Raby, Peter (1997). The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 3 November 2016. 

External links[edit]

Look up doublespeak in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.