Let us begin with the definition of Language: use of words as a method of human communication. Faculty of speech. Style of expression. System of symbols and rules for writing computer programs. Any method of expression.
Next we must look at Communication: act of imparting, esp news. Information, communicated. Oxford Dictionary said to see also: information and transmission. Syn: make known, impart, confer, transfer, hand on or down, share, pass on or along.
This article is based off William Lutz’s studies and a summary of his work: Doublespeak. It is imperative, if we are to retain any hope of saving communication and language, that we ALL learn how to spot and beat this mess created by DOUBLESPEAK.
William Lutz set out to define, analyze and document doublespeak. He found that it had nothing to do with bad grammar or syntax, but rather: “It is instead a very conscious use of language as a weapon or tool by those in power to achieve their ends at our expense. While some doublespeak is funny, much of it is frightening.”
Questions to ask in order to spot doublespeak:
- · Who is saying what to whom?
- · Under what conditions and circumstances?
- · With what intent?
- · With what results?
- · The golden five: Who, What, Why, When, and How?
Four Levels of doublespeak:
Euphemism: An inoffensive or positive word or phrase used to avoid harsh, unpleasant, or distasteful reality.
Example: “passed away” “restroom” “sleeping with” or “involved with.” These are not meant to mislead anyone about the meaning behind them, when we say: restroom, we know it means bathroom.
It is when euphemism is used to mislead or deceive, it becomes doublespeak.
Example of Euphemism doublespeak: In 1984 (a coincidence?) the US State Department declared it would no longer use the word killing in its annual report on the status of human rights in countries around the world. Instead, it would use the phrase “unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life.” Its purpose for using this phrase was to avoid discussing government-sanctioned killings in countries that are supported by the US.
Another Example: The Pentagon refers to bombs and artillery shells that fall on civilian targets as “incontinent ordnance.” And in 1977 the Pentagon tried to slip in funding for the neutron bomb into an appropriations bill by calling it: Radiation Enhancement Device. And the current word: Collateral Damage: The U.S. military states the term is used in regards to unintentional or incidental damage to non-combatant property and non-combatant casualties, (Or death to a person or destruction of property that was not the original target. Notice their definition of it is also doublespeak) <<Those are prime examples of doublespeak, they are a deliberate attempt to mislead. It is language designed to alter our perception of reality.
Jargon: The specialized language of a trade, profession, similar group, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, etc. (And in my humble opinion, the makers of Common Core)
Jargon does serve a useful function within a group. It can act as a verbal shorthand that allows the people in the group to communicate clearly, efficiently, and quickly.
When Jargon becomes doublespeak: When words and sentences or communication becomes pretentious in nature (I know better than you because I am a Doctor, Lawyer, etc...) and it begins to obscure and give an air of authority and prestige to the person, communication ends and doublespeak begins. It is also doublespeak when they make the simple appear complex. (Again, from me, and just my opinion, I think about many of the new educational practices and new ways for doing once simple tasks like 12 +15)
Examples: Smelling: Organoleptic analysis. Glass: Fused silicate.
Jargon doublespeak is especially bad when members of the specialized group use it to communicate with a person on the outside.
Example: May 9, 1978: National Airlines 727 crashed. The airline made 1.7 million on after-tax benefit, they needed to disclose where the 1.7 million came from to stock holders, so they wrote: “the involuntary conversion of a 727.” The general public is normally not familiar with legal jargon, thus the use would be considered doublespeak: an attempt to mislead.
Gobbledygook or Bureaucratese: The piling on of word, after word, after word, the longer the word, the better. They want to overwhelm the audience with these words. (There really isn’t a “positive” side to this one)
Example: 1974 Allan Greenspan testifying before the Senate: “It is a tricky problem to find the particular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem the acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated risk premiums.”
Example: Vice President Candidate Dan Quayle, 1988 presidential campaign on strategic-defense: “Why wouldn’t an enhanced deterrent, a more stable peace, a better prospect to denying the ones who enter conflict in the first place to have a reduction of offensive system and an introduction to defense capability? I believe this is the route the country will eventually go.”
I am sure we can all think of many more examples, namely, many of the bills now shoved down the throats of the United States Citizen.
Inflated Language: The way of making ordinary: extraordinary. This one is normally the easiest to spot.
Example: Not really meant to mislead: mechanics: automotive internists, elevator operators: vertical transportation corps, used cars: pre-owned…etc.
Example of Doublespeak through inflated Language: “We are initiating a career alternative enhancement program.” What it means: firing workers. “Negative patient-care outcome” or the patient is dead. “Rapid oxidation” is a fire at a nuclear power plant.
Example of serious doublespeak through inflated language: “pre-emptive counterattack.” US attacks first. “Engaged the enemy on all sides”: troops ambushed.
In the end we must remember that Doublespeak is designed to corrupt thought. It has become so common that many do not notice it. They don’t react, and they don’t protest. We are now living in a time where doublespeak has allowed for people to avoid responsibility and has made the bad seem good, and the negative positive. If this continues, which it will, it will destroy the very function of language. How can you fight for your “rights” if you think they are just “privileges?” How can you have “freedom” if you don’t even know what freedom really is anymore?
Please share and list examples of Doublespeak below, and please share with others examples of doublespeak.
As always, thank you for stopping by. Catch you on the flip-side.
OH: Last thought. George Carlin has a great way of getting the message of doublespeak across. And yes, I am starting to think that the no longer using the word he and she and instead use ze is a form of doublespeak. If you don’t know what I am talking about, please see this article: HERE.