GEORGE ORWELL’S WORDS


Through wordsmith.org I subscribe to A Word a Day for daily emails with a new word each day with a theme.  Examples are words  that are eponyms or words that sound dirty but aren’t.  A few weeks ago it was words from George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four(published in 1949),  that have become part of our language.   I recall reading  his dark novel in high school and thinking how very far into the future the year 1984 was, why, I’d be an old woman of 40 years.  Today we are 34 years beyond that doomed year,  and I have become a crone.  Below is a photo of my worn copy of the book; I think Daughter used it when it was required reading for a class.

Here are five of Orwell’s words featured and defined for that week:

NEWSPEAK:  Deliberately ambiguous or euphemistic language used for propaganda.

UNPERSON:  A person regarded as nonexistent.

BIG BROTHER:  An authoritarian person, organization, government, etc., that monitors or controls people.

DOUBLETHINK:   An acceptance of two contradictory ideas at the same time.

OLDSPEAK:   Normal English usage, as opposed to propagandist, euphemistic, or obfuscatory language.

My old paperback copy has this afterword by Erich Fromm and begins with this paragraph.

“George Orwell’s 1984 is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning.  the mood it expresses is that of near despair about the future of man, and the warning is that unless the course of history changes, men all over the world will lose the most human qualities, will become soulless automatons, and will not even  be aware of it.”

Fortunately, the soulless world of Winston Smith (main character from the novel) has not become reality.  There have been dark days and some parallels can be drawn from that world and some events even leading up to 2018, but the course of history has surely changed.   Here are some of my humble observations.

Let’s start with the most commonly quoted word from 1984, Big Brother.  Some would think that we already have a Big Brother in the form of federal government imposing rules, regulations and laws and tracking us and  strongly distrust the government.  Internet and social media could be considered as Big Brother the way our smart phones track us as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc. that track our locations, likes, friends and shopping habits.  And what of television?  Can we escape that glowing eye from home or almost anyplace we go?  And security cameras seem to be everywhere.

Newspeak is often used by those who want to put a certain spin on a statement or situation.  Those in power appear to be the most skilled at newspeak.

The unperson could be those without a political voice whether by poverty, circumstances, gender, place of birth or sexual orientation.  The Black Lives Matter movement quickly comes to my mind.

Our current President of the United States of America appears to be skilled in doublethink as he often says one thing and then acts in a completely different way to support, oppose or propose a policy.  There ought to be an Orwellian word for the way he tweets.

Oldspeak was the language of truth and honesty.  Lies were not treated as the norm and truth was not labeled as fake news.

Where did the inspiration for this post come from?  Perhaps I just wanted to write one last 500-word essay on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and convince myself that a negative Utopia did not become a reality in 2018.  Or has it?

31 thoughts on “GEORGE ORWELL’S WORDS

    • With so much going on in politics, social media, Twitter, news, etc.we have to be more careful than ever to question what is presented. I fear many just take whatever explanation of an event comes their way as truth and even pass it on as truth. I went over my 500 words but it was a good assignment for this crone!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Jo, so much food for thought. 1984 showed us what to fear and certain elements of that story are evident today, the most obvious being the “doublethink” of the current American president. We are living in interesting times.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Our world is certainly different from Orwell’s when the book was published. I don’t want to do without technology but it can certainly consume us in ways that are unhealthy. Currently our American government is not functioning effectively under a president who does not realize what an honor it is to lead this nation. We are still strong and have much to be thankful for. Yet each day brings more drama that is not necessary! May our friends not give up on us! Thanks for the visit!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Jo,
    Wow … your reputation here isn’t political or even stir-the-pot. I not only applaud your effort, but you also did it by focusing on personal concern – not an ideological perspective. You handled it much better than I would!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Frank, that is an appreciated and gracious compliment coming from you! It was hard not to just bash and blame our leader, but I tried to take the high ground while getting my subtle message across. I certainly admire civil way you write about President Trump as you toss out an idea as if it were only an afterthought. Thanks as always for taking time to read and comment. We are all in this together.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. A very timely post. I read “1984” in college, for a class about totalitarianism. Another book we read was Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” a non-fiction book about the appeal of radical ideologies–specifically communism and fascism–and how they led people to rationalize behaving inhumanely toward their fellow men. The two ideologies were very different, but they attracted people for some of the same reasons.

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  4. That book used to be taught in high school along with Brave New World (Huxley), The FountainHead (Rand), and the allegorical Animal Farm (Orwell) It was a lot of contrast and compare of themes, heavy exploration of vocabulary and persuasive techniques in English class – while the history class explored the political aspects, history and contrast/compare of political systems and how they develop.
    So much of fiction – especially science fiction has become reality. For the past 3-4 presidents many have pointed to these books and their themes – and that recently those holding “the power” have radically shifted from the old structure. Not just the government/military any more as you pointed out.
    Enjoyed your essay – more people should read, explore and share these titles. I doubt they are discussed and utilized in schools much any more. Rand was criticized by feminists for what they called rape in that particular novel. The themes themselves are uncomfortable for many now – counter productive…and not culturally diverse…
    So the skills of analyzing language and the how/purposes it is being used for is not getting taught either. Propaganda is apparently considered a fairy tale now? Debate using facts, not emotion or hyperbole MIA?
    Recently ran across this in an essay about Animal Farm – thought you might enjoy it “Orwell, a democratic socialist thought the Soviet Union had become a brutal dictatorship, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror.” Hmmmm. So close.
    Every time I see a mob, read about – both ends of the extremes – shouting down someone trying to speak or the target of crazed mob organized internet attacks/bullying – I keep seeing images of the Brown Shirted HJ youth in Germany. (Remember they even appeared in Julie Andrews’s the Sound of Music movie?)
    Far too many following without questioning – then and now. If we can’t get back to civil debate, compromise, and we are more alike than different, it’s not going to get better. (There’s probably a book for that, too? HAHA)
    Great thought provoking post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, yes, I remember reading those books too as we took the threat of communism seriously along with the threat of nuclear war. They are all still relevant in their own way today. Thanks for the quote about Orwell – he was close as we are still on opposite sides with the Soviet Union most of the time. “Compare and contrast…” would be found on most English tests, but I don’t know how they teach today. I agree that so many blindly follow whatever is found on social media and are taken in by everything. Weren’t we warned of propaganda back then? So many were taken in and believed everything on Facebook during the 2016 election. Those that admire the Nazis are raising their voices. I enjoyed your comment very much! You could easily use your comments for a post on your blog! You are always sensible with a dash of humor.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Rich solid literature is the only way to teach so much – including character lessons (easier to discuss the meaning of story characters’ actions, thoughts, and deeds than risk talking about real live people), and the effects and consequences of bullying (and the more common, darn meanness/hitting someone when they are down/ laughing at others’ misfortunes)
        The really weird thing is in today’s emotional politically charged world, both extreme ideological ends are so similar in actions/ranting even though opposite in thought. It would be funny, except it’s not…at all.
        Maybe we learned balance and critical thinking because we all were forced to substantiate our thoughts with actual facts with words that supported meaning – in all classes…and that every time we were to debate some issue, the darn teacher knew which side you believed in strongly -and assigned you to debate the opposite side. Does make one stretch their thinking and use logic even if you don’t like it….had to have that grade and had to learn to use words and information. Good mental exercise anyway. Certainly made you secure and confident in your own beliefs…no feeling faint or explosively angry because someone said something opposite – taught to be up to the verbal, yet civil, challenge.
        Maybe a return someday
        Thanks for the kind words and encouragement

        Liked by 2 people

    • I guess the cover was quite bold for the time and only $1.25! It even smells old and has passages underlined in pencil. I guess students do than electronically now. Thanks for stopping by to comment on a different kind of art from what you post about.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I still remember when I saw our country turning a corner: although which corner, and where we were going, I couldn’t say. It was the day I first heard the word ‘transparency’ used in a newscast. I pondered it for a while, and finally said — both to friends and in a comment on my blog — that there seemed no reason to use ‘transparency’ when ‘thruthfulness’ would do. Of course it wasn’t long before ‘truthiness’ appeared: a word that still means something that appears to have a veneer of truth, but might or might not be truthful at its core.

    The changing of language bothers me immensely: the rejection of words, the twisting of meaning. Wittengenstein said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” and so it is. Of course, we don’t need German philosophers of language to help us out when we have Humpty Dumpty! Remember what he said, in Alice in Wonderland?

    ” “I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’ ” Alice said.
    Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’ ”
    “But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.
    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

    And that’s where we are: struggling along with leaders who set out to make words mean just what they want them to mean, in order to maintain their mastery over others.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I wonder what George would think of 2018?? Jo… 🙂 And its amazing isn’t it just how his book used those words that are common place today… Did all of those who read his book bring that into being though the Ether by the power of thought creating our reality?? 😀 or Did George travel forward in time to see what was coming…
    I just wish our Leaders of the world would do a bit of time travel.. And stop repeating past History with all their arguments that continually cause conflict..

    Loved this post.. And that Book has the look of being read and enjoyed.. what more can a good book ask for.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, I wonder what he would think of 2018 also! You have an interesting theories about how we come to relate to Orwell’s words today. Yes, my copy is quite worn with marks on the cover – could be ink…could be chocolate…and many passages are underlined in pencil. Who does that now? lol Thank you for taking time from your journey to read and comment. May peace be your friend!

    Like

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