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Some suggested changes

There were a few things in your "doublespeak" article that I would change, a matter of taste really, but for what it's worth, here goes:

A false Etemology?

The word "doublespeak" wasn't "coined in the early 1950's" (I'm on shaky ground here but I doubt if anyone can show me a cite much before 1990)

I guess this could be checked in LexusNexus or similar. Mememe 14:28, 26 Sep 2005 (EDT)
Interestingly, this apparently goes back to 1974: [1]

The "speak" in Newspeak means dialect or language, like the -ese in Pentagonese or computerese. Duckspeak is a speaking style, delivery and tone more than vocabulary. Both words are deliberate coinages, neologisms of the future Orwell meant to be ugly and totalitarian.

"Doublespeak" is probably just "doubletalk" with "talk" changed to "speak" to sound Orwellian and alarming. The meaning "quasi-language" for the "-speak" suffix isn't justified by the examples, nor is "style". The fact is, that the "-speak" is vague and slovenly; the unpleasant effect is made worse if you happen to think of Orwell (as is not unlikely) and his nuanced sense of language while using it.

It's also phonetically attractive, in a perverse way. I interpreted it as meaning "the language of duplicity", which is what was intended, I think.

Who's responsible? Some professor writing a book for the mass market, or other thoughtless person, would be my guess, hoping to add a little interest, or a little profondeur, to some dull and off-the-mark writing somewhere.

Ooh. Get you! <flounce> I've added a few links above. It might be that these are the origin, though I suspect it's from the early 80s when interest in Orwell's 1984 was revived, for obvious reasons. I imagine it showing up first in a burbling column-filler somewhere, but perhaps you've prejudiced me against the word now. Mememe 14:28, 26 Sep 2005 (EDT)

Some are ordinary euphemisms, some jargon, some "polysyllabic humour"

Of the more than 120 supposed examples of "doublepeak", most are garden-variety euphemisms or contradictions in terms. Others are jargon or "polysyllabic humor" (cf. Fowler, "Modern English Usage"). And there isn't a single example of real doubletalk. All you can say after reading this article is that "doublespeak" lumps together uselessly a bunch of things we already have perfectly usable names for, and is something despicable--we know this from that hated Orwellian "-speak" it ends with.

This is a fair point. I may apply your sub-categories to the article.

Doublespeak is newspeak!

The beauty part is that "doublespeak" is real (unintentional) Newspeak, coercive, invidious, totalitarian, and vague enough to be applied at will. Thinking of this terrible irony should be enough to stop you from using "doublespeak" in almost any situation.

The article originated in the wikipedia. It's their fault, honest. I must confess, it's not a word I've ever used except here. I just have a bit of a thing for contradictory and inverted use of words. I'm not the only one, clearly. Mememe 14:28, 26 Sep 2005 (EDT)

The article is shallow, unoriginal and muddle headed

I'm nearly certain the classically-trained Orwell would have greatly disliked this article. It's shallow, inaccurate and muddle-headed, falls into the very errors it pretends to criticize, and hasn't the faintest scintilla of originality or style. I'm sorry to say that these are all hallmarks of American, not British, English--but this is another subject. (Or is it?)

I think you misunderstand the function of the article. It's not journalism. It's a collection of simple jokes collected and (in a few cases) distilled from a variety of sources. By definition it can't be original. Further, it's not intended to please some dead guy. What would be the point? Kind of you to be concerned, though. More seriously, do you think there's potential for a more substantial article? Or was it just annoying you? Mememe 14:28, 26 Sep 2005 (EDT)

But I hate the right wing too!

I yield to no one in my hatred for the right wing. But before saying "agenda" is used to "discredit laws or programs sought after by the left", you'd better check the SourceWatch home page where "agenda" is used in exactly the same way by "one of us".

"Shape the public agenda"? No, that's quite different. It's referring to the operation of government and its institutions, not a project to determine the mode of that operation. Mememe 14:28, 26 Sep 2005 (EDT)

Further reading

For an excellent example of doubletalk, see Beckett's wonderful "Words and Music" (Words' first long speech.)

Dixi et animam levavi.

eh? <googles> Oh, OK. Mememe 14:28, 26 Sep 2005 (EDT)

W. Reier, Berkeley, California

Interesting comments. See my response at User talk:Wreier. --Sheldon Rampton 12:57, 15 Oct 2004 (EDT)

Bias re-instated

Interesting that my last post (on the talk page of all places), which was admittedly flamebait, was censored. I slammed the editors for using poor judgement in selecting examples of doublespeak. Unfortunately, the editors (not always, but often) are using a lot of doublspeak by taking spin from one side and spinning it the other direction. For example, I deleted "dribble-on" from the trickle-down definition... because its only purpose is to stir emotion (ie, spin). But it was replaced because some people just don't realize that they themselves are just as biased (just in the opposite viewpoint). The premise behind SourceWatch is to present facts, and facts only. If you look at most of the "definitions," you can tell that they are largely politically-charged. Instead of presenting evidence, just an emotive reaction is presented. I think the people at SourceWatch really need to look at themselves and ask themselves: "can someone view us as being biased?" The answer currently, is yes!

"Death squad"

I took out "Death Squad = enemy soldiers" -- it was like saying that "Concentration Camp" is doublespeak for "POW camp."

"Death squad" has a specific, useful meaning. It originated to describe a grisly phenomenon in countries like Kissinger-era El Salvadore , Guatamala, and Chile, and Greece under the Generals, where the military is used primarily for quelling internal dissent, rather than fighting wars. A list of "enemies" is announced on television. Members of the army, acting unofficially, take these lists as unofficial execution orders, while off-duty form themselves into unofficial execution squads, and "disappear" the people named. There is no record of any action; no recourse for the families of the disappeared. TJ, just passing thru.

Is Tongue-in-cheek appropriate?

I have to admit adding some tongue-in-cheek "newbies" but they are quite appropriate, I think. Artificial Intelligence 3/31/03 14:08 (EST) PS .. need some definitions, especially to rogue nation and rogues.

Comment: as much as I enjoy tongue-in-cheek, I'll have to say that for the purpose of SourceWatch, the 'victory' definition detracts from the value of the others.
-- Maynard 19:48 31 Mar 2003 (EST)

Comment to AI: I really enjoy your enthusiasm and perspective. I see that you've replaced your definitions with ellipses (...); perhaps the ellipses could hyperlink to definitions in this talk page, or a new Doublespeak/in-Cheek page; or maybe better yet a new and separate page of Doublespeak/in-Cheek (or other name). Just thinking aloud here in an undercaffeinated consideration of whether your definition of 'globalization' is doublespeak or plain speak, without duplicity. We certainly don't just want to list all of our favorite "triggers" <G>
Again, I'm just musing, not suggesting. --Maynard 07:59 1 Apr 2003 (EST)

Categorise into military and regular PR language?

Perhaps the military-related doublespeak should be separated from the regular PR doublespeak. --Menchi

Is language messing with my head?

Could newspeak, doublespeak, and yada-yada-yadaspeak be the trouble I have forming thoughts about something like our unprovoked war in Iraq or the war on liberal thought? I just don't have the vocabulary to form thoughts because the language is so squishy with ever shifting meanings, and ...oh look...a butterfly...I got to buy a butterfuly net.... is dinner about ready? What was I thinking about...oh yeah why I can't stay focused while thinking about the unthinkable.

Question: Do I need a head doctor or will turning off the television/radio and learning a foreign language be the best advise. Ray

Some definitions are too loose

While I share many of the biases of the person (people?) who wrote the list of doublespeak terms, I can't help but think this person is engaging in a bit of doublespeak themselves...for example, while "terrorist" is a vague, catch-all term that is quite often ab/used by the establishment for propoganda reasons, saying that "terrorist=freedom fighter" is in its own way just as biased and propogandistic as a cop calling anti-globalization protesters "terrorists" ("freedom fighter" itself is as much of a vague, catch-all term as "terrorist" it's like the author is providing a doublespeak term to define a doublespeak term...double-doublespeak!). By saying that "terrorist=freedom fighter", the author is trying to give a positive connotation to a term that usually has a negative connotation. I don't know what the exact dictionary definition of a terrorist is, but it would probably be more fair to say a terrorist is "someone who employs terror to cause political change". While it could be said that organizations like the CIA or Mossad perpetrate terrorist acts, I'm sure we can also all agree that a Muslim fundamentalist intent on blowing up civilian passenger flights with the aim of setting up a worldwide Muslim theocracy isn't much of a "freedom fighter".

Regards, Mr. F***face.

"Affirmative action"

I deleted affirmative action defined as discrimination based on race. "Affirmative action" is a rather vague term but it normally is used to mean the granting of limited preference to members of groups who have been previously discriminated against. The entry reflected a bias against affirmative action.

I tend to agree that this list has been overgrown by an ivy of bias. Communicication=propaganda? That is a bit weak. The problem is that the accusation of "doublespeak" has some propaganda value of its own. The tactic is to claim the literary high ground, accusing an opponent of masking facts behind fancy words. The problem with accusations of doublespeak is that they often mask a double standard. Those who occuse others of doublespeak often have their own collection of freindly euphemisms that help make controversial topics more acceptable. I suspect the person who posted "affirmative action" recognized the double standard at play and attempted to expose the duplicity. If the phrase were posted with an accurate and accepted definition, I would gladly let it stand.

Consider the term "terrorism." A text titled Science and Technology of Terrorism and Counterterrorism offers a definition generally accepted in many political and administrative quarters that draws a narrow line between, for example, Hammas, which it defines as terrorist, and Israel, whose tactics by that book's definition are not terrorist. I had trouble with the definition, but the chapter-one effort by a scholarly text to define the term suggests the word does reflect attempts to describe a unique and specific form of warfare. Those who do not accept the classification have a good argument that the classification is propaganda, but those are legitimate differences, not evidence that "terrorist" is strictly used as doublespeak for "freedom fighter". Again, the problem is with the term "doublespeak." It is not an academically accepted concept and whatever effort this article makes to offer a fair and accurate definition will likely run up against the biases that make the term a bit too loose for academia.


Motivation has been assumed

Another problem with this article's definition of doublespeak is it presumes motivation. Doublespeak is propaganda, so it says, if it is intended as such. The problem there is that we can only guess or ass-u-me the motive's of others. A classic tendency, the fundamental attribution error, is to see the motives of others as devious while assuming one's own motives or the motives of one's allies to be pure and worthy. When this happens, our own egos' belief in our own rightness can interfere with what could otherwise be a useful understanding of circumstances - prpgtr

I think "prpgtr" makes some good points about this article being "overgrown by an ivy of bias." I would welcome someone making a good-faith effort to clean it up a bit, culling out or adding clarity some of the more tendentious examples. For example, not all "communication" is "propaganda," but clearly there are cases where the word "communication" is used as a euphemism for activities that should be fairly regarded as propaganda.
What I've tried to do when contributing examples here is to first post the example itself with a brief definition in the Doublespeak article itself. Then I create a separate, more detailed article that provides sufficient space to explain why this particular word usage should be considered doublespeak. See, for example, the axis of evil article.
I agree with prpgtr's observation that some subjectivity enters into the question of whether a term should or should not be considered "doublespeak," but nevertheless the concept can be useful as a way of examining the ways that language gets used in tendentious ways. As for whether the concept is sufficiently rigorous for academia, several books about doublespeak have been written by William Lutz, a professor at Rutgers.

There is a danger of misinterpreting the intention of those who create terms

I trust Lutz has authored a scholarly review of doublespeak, and I would probably be better positioned to edit this page if I reviewed his book. But even then, I suspect his views of doublespeak might stir controversy among a broad cross section of linguists and sociologists. Does he include HUMINT and SIGINT as "doublespeak"? Problem is, these words were not coined for use toward a target audience in a persuasive effort; they arose from a routine military practice of simplifying commonly used words. HUMINT does not mean spies. It might include some of the work product produced by spies, but it can also include reports compiled by a variety of human sources, such as that obtained from POW's, (sometimes aka "illegal combatants") or simply from overt, perhaps casual dialogue with anyone who might be "in the know." Likewise, "wiretaps" is a poor summary for the source of signals intelligence. Sometimes wires are tapped, other times, signals are intercepted by radio recievers (such as with ECHELON. At other times, signal intelligence might involve monitoring only the frequency and location of signals, as could be used to identify troop movements. US law enforcement sources often get warrants for "PIN registers" which record, from a telephone company office, only the source or destination of calls to or from a particular number. The terms seem to be intended to 'differentiate' signals intelligence from human intelligence with reasonable precision, NOT to gloss over the fact that some HUMINT sometimes comes, as everyone who uses the term knows, from "spies".

So, if Lutz says HUMINT and SIGINT are doublespeak, I'll leave them, or if anyone rushes in to defend the terms, I'll leave it. Otherwise, consider those terms targeted for removal.

In general, these examples would be stronger if they were accompanied by some context that helps explain when the term is doublespeak, who uses it, when it might be benign, and perhaps citation of an example where it is actually used. 'prpgtr'

p.s. - What I am implying is we sometimes call things doublespeak not because anyone intended to deceive us, but rather, by refusing to parse the context and intent behind a term, we are attempting to deceive ourselves by our misperception of a speaker's intent. This does not promote precise diplomatic communication.

This article condemns creativity with language

This article preys on the gullible to direct prejudice toward people who use language creatively. There is no evidence presented here, for example, that the term "terminate with extreme prejudice" was ever used outside of Hollywood. Other terms, "pre-owned" for example, are simply flexible use of a language that offers a variety of ways to make the same statement. There is absolutely no evidence presented here of intent to decieve, except for the intent of those who describe routine speach as doublespeak for the purpose of politically damaging the speaker.

ah .. now I've got it ... "speach" .. "speaker" .. always wondered where that came from ....

Is illogical language doublespeak?

pre-owned is pretzel-logic. Nobody owns the vehicle before the first consumer? How can you take ownership of a non-pre-owned car?

Faulty logic has never been a barrier to coining new expressions. You hear the redundant expression "the ER room," i.e. "the Emergency Room room" all time. "Destruct" was never a verb until Mission Impossible made it into "self-destruct" for "destroy itself." Some copywriter just thought "pre-owned" sounded a little less used than "used." And so it goes. Mutternich 21:15, 10 May 2004 (EDT)

"Enemy Combatant"?

I disagree with the enemy combatant entry. It may be right, but I think not, and the supporting link does not offer support.

The term enemy combatant is used in all the examples offered as a phony way of designating a domestic criminal suspect, not captured in combat or necessarily subject to Geneva Article III protections. Labeling them such helps deprive them of their rights as criminal defendants under the Bill of Rights.

I think with respect to actual prisoners of war, the doublespeak term of preference is "unlawful combatant." This is a perhaps a usefully distinguishable concept in theory, but in practice, it was made up to mean, you Afghan fighters don't look like you're in uniform, so we'll take that as an excuse not to accord you rights that others we take prisoner in combat would normally have.



I reverted 'pro-life' as it was an oversimplification and generalisation of the views of those who would use that despription. --Bob Burton 23:02, 16 Aug 2004 (EDT)

relocating comment from an article to talk page --Bob Burton 23:17, 1 Sep 2004 (EDT)

"negative patient care outcome"

My wife is a critical care nurse. I asked her what a "negative patient care outcome" was. She replied, "Means they died. Slick, huh? When you read it you can almost make yourself believe that they're still alive." My background is social work. I know, if someone keeps f**cking around with their concept of reality,they lose touch, they get real strange and go mad. It seems like we all arrived in foo-foo land a long time ago. Let's all create a new state of anarchy that benefits our mental health. Let's start calling things what they really are. "The patient's dead", "the department of war", ...

"Intellegent Design"

The only doublespeak in the phrase/term Intellegent Design under this heading is the NewSpeak of including it here, by the person who included it. The term means exactly what it says, describing the position/philosophy/metaphysical opinion that universe is 'intellegently designed', as opposed to 'randomly occured'. You may not like it, you can stigmatize it with the phrase 'pseudoscience', but that doesn't make it doublespeak. I move that Intellegent Design be removed from the list, and Pseudoscience be added, with the definition: "pejorative term to discredit-by-demeaning a paradigm of science with which the writer disagrees. Often used to attempt to censor the views of anyone who disagrees with philosophical naturalism, vs methodological naturalism, but also used on occasion by the other side in rebuttal" To be blunt, this whole article reaks of both open-handed and self-blind bias against issues for which someone has an ax to grind. The problem of accusations of course(as mentioned earlier in this talk page), is guessing which is which. -- gBen 0245 EST, 28 Nov 2004

Signals intelligence

I removed the section on signals intelligence here -- the original listing to equate it with only wiretaps was very very narrow. The wider definition that has been added makes it clear that the terms "signals intelligence" does not belong in a list of examples of doublespeak. It may be better placed somewhere else in D but for the moment I have parked it here -

  • signal intelligence; also SIGINT: wiretaps.!. A catagory of intelligence comprising either individually or in combiniation all communications intelligence, electronic intelligence, and foreign instrumentation signals intelligence however transmitted. (Joint Chiefs of Staff - Dictionary Of Military Terms).

--Bob Burton 22:17, 17 Jan 2005 (EST)

"religious bias"?

The last changes in this section whiff of some evangelical tendency in the interpretation of doublespeak. E.g., abortion... much the same with the others. --PaulR 15:09, 8 Feb 2005 (EST)

These are euphemisms, not "doublespeak". Context is important.

I'm wondering if the list of examples on this page belongs on dkosopedia or Demopedia. I don't know if the word "doublespeak" is the right one for this, I guess euphemism seems to cover pretty well all of them.

I also think we need to be clearer in what OUR definitions are, for example, while ordinary rebels are often called terrorists in the media, that does not mean that terrorist = ordinary rebel. Someone could read this and misinterpret it.

Also, maybe a separate section on military-specific euphemism is a good idea. After all, when a soldier says he "took out" someone or "delivered ordinence", he is just trying to keep a tramatizing image out of his mind, a perfectly understandable motive. When a politician says it, on the other hand, it's a case of disguising facts in a way to make the voters emotionally and morally numb.

We need to make clear that the problem is usually not the terms themselves (though some are inexecusable) but their usage in the wrong context. -- 22:04, 23 Sep 2005 (EDT)

Further reading: The Devil's Dictionary

No better disciples for the Devil's Dictionary can be found than those who have a penchant for the turn of a phrase!

The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1913, Public Domain, Copyright Expired



   n. The natural equipment to accomplish some small part of the meaner ambitions distinguishing able men from dead ones.

James Horn