Saturday, December 31, 2005


The next time you hear Mister Bush or someone else from his extended royal court say the word "Islamofacism," think of George Orwell's 1984. In one of my favorite passages, Winston Smith has asked his "friend" Syme how his work on the Newspeak Dictionary is coming.
'The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,' [Syme] said. 'We're getting the language into its final shape -- the shape it's going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we've finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We're destroying words -- scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. The Eleventh Edition won't contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.'


'You haven't a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,' he said almost sadly. 'Even when you write it you're still thinking in Oldspeak. I've read some of those pieces that you write in The Times occasionally. They're good enough, but they're translations. In your heart you'd prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don't grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?


'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten.

Think "with us or against us," "cut and run," "total victory" and the hundreds of other mantras we hear from Bush administration echo chamberlains that deny any subtlety of thought.

Like I always say: Rovewellian!


  1. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?


    One of the best books I read this year, Jonathan Lethem's Gun, with Occasional Music, had a similar denouement. When the protag awakes after a few decades' punitive sleep, folks barely talk to one another -- and God forbid you ask anyone a question.

    Happy New Year to you and your family, Jeff. All the best. Let's hope '06 goes down as the year the bastards had to pay.

  2. Best wishes for the New Year, Doug.

    I plan to keep my 40 pound Websters from the early 90s forever!