Newspeak is “politically correct” speech taken to its maximum. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing “unorthodox” political ideas are removed. There is an attempt to remove the overall number of words in general, so to limit the range of ideas which can be expressed.
by O Society Feb 14, 2019
During the Trump regime, sales of the novel 1984 by George Orwell, first published in 1949, soar. It climbs to the top of the amazon.com best seller list, and bookstores report copies flying off the shelves. You can read it here.
Since so many people are reading or re-reading it, we have a “book club” conversation about what makes this classic relevant today.
Andrew Simmons is an English teacher who transforms his classroom into the world of 1984 and Big Brother every October:
“I want to get to the point where they know what this book is about, and they are being encouraged to look to current events and look to more recent history, and to basically constantly ask themselves:
Is this some sort of strange prediction that never came true?
Is this a warning people haven’t really heeded?
Do we live in a society that, on certain mornings when we wake up, feels a little bit like the one the book presents to us?”
“It would be really difficult for me to not teach this book, because sitting through the election cycle, I’m not sure how many people didn’t think of 1984. It is so obvious there is an effort to re-write history as discussions are taking place.”
Michael Bugeja is director and professor of Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. His concern lies in seeing the Orwellian concepts of “doublethink” and “Newspeak” in today’s society:
“According to Orwell in the book, doublethink is the ability, to hold two contradictory ideas in one’s mind simultaneously. That’s what’s going on in many corners of the media right now. At the Greenlee School, we make a distinction between media, which is everything, social networks, newspapers, television… and journalism, which is the practice of disseminating fact and analysis to an audience. And 1984 does speak quite eloquently about this.”
Newspeak is the language of the IngSoc regime in 1984. It consists of restricted grammar and limited vocabulary, a linguistic design meant to limit the freedom of thought and self-expression.
“I’m seeing a lot of Newspeak in the texting that goes on, and in the lack of reading,” says Bugeja. “Nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year, and the number of non-book readers has nearly tripled since 1978… So what we’re losing by not reading of course is the ability to think critically.”
Terms often incorrectly attributed to Orwell’s Newspeak
- alternative facts – statement by Kellyanne Conway in 2017
- doublespeak – often incorrectly attributed to Orwell, it was actually coined in the early 1950s, and does not appear anywhere within Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but its meaning forms a natural parallel to the Newspeak word doublethink. duckspeak, Newspeak, and Oldspeak. This term was not actually created by Orwell himself, yet it does carry the rather Orwellian meaning: “Deliberately ambiguous or evasive language; any language that pretends to communicate but actually does not.”
- doubletalk – predated Orwell’s novel, becoming popular during the late 1930s and early 1940s, but usually written as separate words.
- groupthink – is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Coined in 1952 by William H. Whyte.
- truthiness – is the belief or assertion a particular statement is true based on the intuition or perceptions of some individual or individuals, without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts. Truthiness can range from ignorant assertions of falsehoods to deliberate duplicity or propaganda intended to sway opinions. Coined in 2005 in an episode of The Word by Stephen Cobert.
- unmutual – coined in 1967 in an episode of The Prisoner.
- truth is not truth – statement by Rudy Giuliani 2018
Newspeak and other terminology found in Orwell’s novel “1984”, with some additional words which appear only in the movie.
Airstrip One – Formally called England. This term demonstrates Orwell’s distain for American influence Europe. It seems that Oceania (America, England, South America, Australia) looks upon Britain as little more than an ‘airstrip’ … a launching ground into the European theater of war. It appears that Orwell was predicting the minor role that England would play in the global politics of the future.
artsem – Artificial Insemination – The government is pushing this method of childbirth as the ONLY method, to aid in the destruction of the family unit. To hear a speech on Artsem from the movie, click here
Atomic Wars – The Atomic Wars took place during the 1950s. Colchester, England is the only city specifically mentioned as being nuked, but the book does say that many cities were destroyed in North America, Europe, and Russia. It was out of the chaos of these wars the Party emerged and seized control.
And just like the gods of most religions, Big Brother is most likely fictional. Orwell never refers to Big Brother by his ‘real’ name, and it would appear no one in Oceania possesses this information either. Winston’s memory is a little foggy, but he does share some of the history of BB’s rise to power with us:
“The story really began in the middle sixties, the period of the great purges in which the original leaders of the Revolution were wiped out once and for all. By 1970 none of them was left, except Big Brother himself. All the rest had by that time been exposed as traitors and counter- revolutionaries.”
But this really doesn’t answer the question of whether Big Brother is a ‘real’ individual or not. But elsewhere in the book, there are hints Big Brother is a fictional leader:
“Nobody has ever seen Big Brother. He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born. Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world. His function is to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt towards an individual than towards an organization.”
It also fits the ideology of Ingsoc to have a fictional leader. It would go a long way to help the stability of the nation, since it would be difficult for any power-hungry inner party members to stage a coup d’etat against an imaginary phantom.
This phrase Big Brother found its way into everyday speech, as in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
big brother, noun, Date: 1863
1 : an older brother
2 : a man who befriends a delinquent or friendless boy
3 : capitalized both Bs [Big Brother, personification of the power of the state in 1984 (1949) by George Orwell] a : the leader of an authoritarian state or movement b : an all-powerful government or organization monitoring and directing people’s actions [data banks that tell Big Brother all about us — Herbert Brucker]
bellyfeel – Full emotional understanding. Blind, enthusiastic acceptance of a concept.
blackwhite– The ability to accept whatever “truth” the party puts out, no matter how absurd it may be. Orwell described it as “…loyal willingness to say black is white when party discipline demands this. It also means the ability to believe black is white, and more, to know black is white, and forget one has ever believed the contrary.”
The Brotherhood – see the resistance
Chestnut Tree Cafe – The “haunt of painters and musicians. There was no law, not even an unwritten law, against frequenting the Chestnut Tree Cafe, yet the place was somehow ill-omened. The old, discredited leaders of the Party used to gather there before they were finally purged. Goldstein himself, it was said, had sometimes been seen there, decades ago.”
There is a rhyme about the cafe that re-occurs throughout the book:
Under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me
There lie they, and here lie we
Under the spreading chestnut tree
This is most likely a “Newspeak Translation” of Longfellow’s original poem, The Village Blacksmith
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
crimestop – Orwell’s definition: “The faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. In short…. protective stupidity.”
chocorat – Chocolate ration. The chocolate ration in 1983 was 30 grams per week. (For comparison, a standard Hershey’s Chocolate Bar is 43 grams.) In the year 1984, the chocolate ration went up to 25 grams per week. Winston himself is charged with the task of re-writing history to make this little feat possible.
NOTE: The book differs slightly from the movie on this. In the book, the the ration was changed to 25 grams as well, but instead or changing history to say that it went up to 25, Winston simply altered the original ‘no-reduction’ pledge to state that the ration would have to come down in April.
crimethink – To even consider any thought not in line with the principles of Ingsoc. Doubting any of the principles of Ingsoc. All crimes begin with a thought. So, if you control thought, you can control crime. “Thoughtcrime is death. Thoughtcrime does not entail death, Thoughtcrime is death…. The essential crime that contains all others in itself.”
dayorder – Order of the day. The “Order of the Day” was a real-life propaganda technique used by America during WWII.
Disputed Territories – These are areas of the world NOT permanently included in any of the Superstates : The quadrilateral between Tangier, Brazzaville, Darwin, and Hong Kong; Equatorial Africa; Middle East; Southern India; and the Indonesian Archipelago. These area are always occupied by one of the three superstates, but are constantly changing hands. The borders of Eurasia flow back and forth between the basin of the Congo and the northern shore of the Mediterranean; The islands of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific are constantly being captured and recaptured by Oceania or by Eastasia; in Mongolia the dividing line between Eurasia and Eastasia is never stable; round the pole all three powers lay claim to enormous territories.
doubleplus- – A Prefix used to create the superlative form of an adjective or adverb. (i.e. – pluscold and doublepluscold meant, respectively, ‘very cold’ and ‘superlatively cold’.
“If you want a stronger version of “good”, what sense is there in having a whole string of vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning, or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. ”
doublethink – Reality Control. The power to hold two completely contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accept both of them. An excellent example of doublethink in modern society is the war on drugs. If you ask people their opinion on alcohol prohibition in the 1920s, most people would agree that it was a complete failure. People agree that it only caused morecrime, it made gangsters rich, it corrupted politicians, and most importantly … it didn’t keep people from drinking.
Yet, we have almost the exact same situation today with war on drugs, yet most people think that our modern prohibition is a good idea … and more than that, they believe that anybody that thinks that the war on drugs isn’t a good idea must be completely out of their minds. In order for a person to be effective at doublethink, they must master the art of crimestop.
This word made its way into the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
dou•ble•think (‘d&-b&l-;”thi[ng]k), noun, Date: 1949 : a simultaneous belief in two contradictory ideas.
Here is how Winston Smith described doublethink in the novel:
“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word ‘doublethink’ involved the use of doublethink.’
This map shows the global superpowers described in George Orwell’s 1984, but does this map truly reflect the political state of the world in the novel or is it just another form of Party propaganda?
It’s fictitious in the sense George Orwell made it up, but it’s also fictitious in the sense it could have been just another lie that the government created. There isn’t any evidence in the book that this is actually how the world is structured. For all we know the UK in 1984 could be like North Korea today; just a small isolated state effectively brainwashed their population.
Eastasia – Smallest of the 3 Superstates. (Political System: Death Worship/Obliteration of Self) Comprised of China and the countries to the south of it, Japan, and a large (but fluctuating) portion of Manchuria, Mongolia, and Tibet. Eastasia is Oceania’s ally at the start of the book, and by the end, Eastasia always has been Oceania’s enemy.
Eurasia – One of the 3 Superstates. (Political System: Neo-Bolshevism) Comprised of the whole northern part of the European and Asiatic land-mass, from Portugal to the Bering Strait. Eurasia is Oceania’s enemy at the start of the book, and by the end Eurasia always has been Oceania’s ally.
Oceania – One of the 3 Superstates. (Political System: Ingsoc) Winston Smith’s home. Comprised of North and South America, Britain, Australia, and southern portions of Africa. Newspeak is the official language of Oceania, but standard English is still spoken by many.
facecrime – Orwell’s definition : “It was terribly dangerous to let your thoughts wander when you were in any public place or within range of a telescreen. The smallest thing could give you away. A nervous tic, an unconscious look of anxiety, a habit of muttering to yourself — anything that carried with it the suggestion of abnormality, of having something to hide. In any case, to wear an improper expression on your face (to look incredulous when a victory was announced, for example) was itself a punishable offence. There was even a word for it in Newspeak: facecrime, it was called.”
FFCC – Organization which supplied cigarettes and other comforts to sailors on the “Floating Fortresses.” This organization was suddenly dissolved in March of 1984 without explanation.
FicDep – Fiction Department of the Ministry of Truth
Floating Fortress – Huge sea bases. Gigantic battleships. This term has its roots in the real-life term for bombers during WWII, flying fortress.
free – Only exist in the sense of “The dog is free of lice”. The concept of political freedom has been replaced by the word crimethink. To hear Winston Smith’s definition of freedom, click here
fullwise – (adverb) Fully. One of the rules of newspeak is that any word can be turned into an adverb by adding the suffix “-wise”. This allowed the removal of repetitive words such as completely and totally from the language.
The Golden Country– A beautiful landscape Winston sees in his dreams. It is a symbol of purity… a land untouched by humans (nor altered by the government).
Orwell’s Description: “The landscape that he was looking at recurred so often in his dreams that he was never fully certain whether or not he had seen it in the real world. In his waking thoughts he called it the Golden Country. It was an old, rabbit-bitten pasture, with a foot-track wandering across it and a molehill here and there. In the ragged hedge on the opposite side of the field the boughs of the elm trees were swaying very faintly in the breeze, their leaves just stirring in dense masses like women’s hair. Somewhere near at hand, though out of sight, there was a clear, slow-moving stream where dace were swimming in the pools under the willow trees.”
Goldstein, Emmanuel – The supreme enemy of the state. He was once a high-ranking member of the party, until he supposedly betrayed the party and begin engaging in revolutionary activities. He is the supposed head of the “resistance”. Goldstein is to Ingsoc what Satan is to Christianity… The embodiment of pure evil.
Orwell describes Goldstein as having “a lean Jewish face, with a great fuzzy aureole of white hair and a small goatee beard — a clever face, and yet somehow inherently despicable, with a kind of senile silliness in the long thin nose, near the end of which a pair of spectacles was perched. It resembled the face of a sheep, and the voice, too, had a sheep-like quality.”
There are similarities between this fictional character and the real-life Russian, Leon Trotsky (shown right). Trotsky was one of the original fonders of the Soviet Union. But when he dared to disagree with the Soviet Union’s version of Big brother, Joseph Stalin, he was exiled from the country. In his absence, Trotsky was tried for treason and all of his followers were purged from the party.
Another possible root of the Emmanuel Goldstein character is the real-life female anarcho-socialist Emma Goldman. Goldman, like Orwell, participated in the Spanish revolution and held a similar view on politics. She too believed in the socialist system, but remained fearful of what a communist dictatorship would mean to personal freedoms. It is likely that Orwell was familiar with her and simply altered the female name of Emma Goldman to create the masculine Emmanuel Goldstein.
Goldstein’s Book – One of the greatest acts of heresy that a citizen of Oceania can possibly commit is to read Goldstein’s Book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. The government portrays the book as the centerpiece of the Resistance — the ultimate tome of all that is evil — which is the reason Winston coveted it so. But when you get right down to it, all this book does is explain the structure of society in straightforward and honest manner. And under a totalitarian regime, that is the single greatest act of thoughtcrime possible.
(Note: “Goldstein’s book” is about 10,700 words long. This means that this “book within a book” comprises approximately 10% of the entire novel!. Given this fact, it almost appears that one of the primary motives for Orwell to write “1984” was provide himself with a vehicle to publish some of his more “far out” beliefs on the structure of society under the guise of the fictional character, Emmanuel Goldstein.)
goodsex – Sex for the purpose of producing children for the party. The opposite of sexcrime.
goodthinker – One who strongly adheres to all of the principles of Newspeak. (goodthinked, goodthink, goodthinked, goodthinking, goodthinkful, goodthinking, goodthinkful, goodthinkwise, goodthinker )
Hate week – Week in which Oceanian citizens all attend rallies and parades to inflame hatred of Party enemies and heighten their efforts on behalf of Oceania.
Inner Party. Official Party members. Upper class. About 6 million individuals (or 2%) of the population in Oceania fall into this class. They posses most of the comforts of today’s middle class (with the addition of two or three servants and possibly a helicopter).
Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford – Orwell’s Description – “The story really began in the middle sixties, the period of the great purges in which the original leaders of the Revolution were wiped out once and for all. By 1970 none of them was left, except Big Brother himself. All the rest had by that time been exposed as traitors and counter- revolutionaries. Goldstein had fled and was hiding no one knew where, and of the others, a few had simply disappeared, while the majority had been executed after spectacular public trials at which they made confession of their crimes. Among the last survivors were three men named Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford. It must have been in 1965 that these three had been arrested. As often happened, they had vanished for a year or more, so that one did not know whether they were alive or dead, and then had suddenly been brought forth to incriminate themselves in the usual way. They had confessed to intelligence with the enemy (at that date, too, the enemy was Eurasia), embezzlement of public funds, the murder of various trusted Party members, intrigues against the leadership of Big Brother which had started long before the Revolution happened, and acts of sabotage causing the death of hundreds of thousands of people. After confessing to these things they had been pardoned, reinstated in the Party, and given posts which were in fact sinecures but which sounded important. All three had written long, abject articles in The Times, analysing the reasons for their defection and promising to make amends.”
“Some time after their release Winston had actually seen all three of them in the Chestnut Tree Cafe. He remembered the sort of terrified fascination with which he had watched them out of the corner of his eye. They were men far older than himself, relics of the ancient world, almost the last great figures left over from the heroic days of the Party. The glamour of the underground struggle and the civil war still faintly clung to them. He had the feeling, though already at that time facts and dates were growing blurry, that he had known their names years earlier than he had known that of Big Brother. But also they were outlaws, enemies, untouchables, doomed with absolute certainty to extinction within a year or two. No one who had once fallen into the hands of the Thought Police ever escaped in the end. They were corpses waiting to be sent back to the grave.”
Their story is similar to that of the real-life Soviets Leon Trotsky, Lev Kamenev (Trotsky’s brother-in-law), and Grigori Zinoviev. These three individuals were the last to oppose Stalin’s absolute rule. Of course, they lost out in the end. Kamenev and Zinoviev capitulated and agreed to sign statements promising not to create conflict in the movement by making speeches attacking official policies. Leon Trotsky refused to sign and was banished.
Junior Anti-sex league – Organization promoting celibacy, and the eradication of the orgasm, because these things cause feelings of ownlife.
malreported – When the Times reports a fact which the government later deemed untrue. You see, the government is never “wrong”, the paper merely reported the facts incorrectly. This term was often used in describing newspaper articles that contained references to unpersons, unfulfilled economic projections, or altered government policies.
malquoted – see malreported
memory hole – A system of pipes, similar to pneumatic tubes, which were used to destroy documents. A document stuffed in the memory hole would be conveniently whisked away to the furnaces below – quickly & easily wiped from history.
Miniluv – Ministry of Love (law and order). “The Ministry of Love was the really frightening one. There were no windows in it at all. Winston had never been inside the Ministry of Love, nor within half a kilometer of it. It was a place impossible to enter except on official business, and then only by penetrating through a maze of barbed-wire entanglements, steel doors, and hidden machine-gun nests. Even the streets leading up to its outer barriers were roamed by gorilla-faced guards in black uniforms, armed with jointed truncheons… One did not know what happened inside the Ministry of Love, but it was possible to guess: tortures, drugs, delicate instruments that registered your nervous reactions, gradual wearing-down by sleeplessness and solitude and persistent questioning.”
Minitrue – Ministry of Truth (propaganda) – Department of the government in charge of all record keeping, history re-writing, and prolefeed“It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 meters into the air. The Ministry of Truth contained, it was said, three thousand rooms above ground level, and corresponding ramifications below. Scattered about London there were just three other buildings of similar appearance and size. So completely did they dwarf the surrounding architecture that from the roof of Victory Mansions you could see all four of them simultaneously. They were the homes of the four Ministries between which the entire apparatus of government was divided.”
misprints – see malreported
Newspeak – The official language of Oceania. Newspeak is “politically correct” speech taken to its maximum extent. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing “unorthodox” political ideas have been removed. In addition, there was an attempt to remove the overall number of words in general, to limit the range of ideas that could be expressed.
The most important aim of newspeak was to provide a means of speaking that required no thought what-so-ever. It uses abbreviations or clipped conjunctions in order to mask or alter a word’s true meaning. For example, words such as Miniluv and joycamp, allow the speaker to speak without actually being force to think about what they were talking about.. or at least, not as much as if they were required to use complete phrases such as “Ministry of Love” or “Forced Labor Camp”. These words just roll right off the lips before the speaker can even contemplate what he is really saying.
Reducing the number of words also removes any literary value to writing, because there would only be one distinct way to present any particular concept. It would be impossible to write a book like Common Sense , Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or even 1984 in Newspeak. Not only would the correct words for certain concepts not be available, but a lack of adjectives would cause the writing would be completely bland and unemotional, which in itself would keep people from reading at all.
Here is the official definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
new•speak (‘nü-“spEk, ‘nyü-), noun, Usage: often capitalized. : propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meanings. Etymology: Newspeak, a language “designed to diminish the range of thought,” in the novel 1984 (1949) by George Orwell. Date: 1950
To hear Syme and Winston discuss the future of newspeak, click here
Oceania ‘Tis for Thee – National Anthem of Oceania.
Oldspeak – Standard English. Newspeak is based on Oldspeak, with all words which represent unpopular (or politically incorrect) ideas removed.
oldthink – Holding on to old ideas and patterns of thought not consistent with current government policy (Ingsoc). Maintaining a belief that is no longer acceptable, but was normal just a few years prior.
Outer Party – Middle class. Bureaucrats, and other government employees. Comprising approximately 13% of population. There is a huge gap between the standard of living of Inner and Outer party members. Outer Party members have very little possessions, and almost no access to basic consumer goods. All outer party members have a telescreen in every room of their pathetic excuse for an apartment.
Physical Jerks – Morning Exercises. Participation was mandatory for all outer party members. These exercises took place every day 3 minutes after the morning wake-up call, which for office workers was at 7:15 am.
Pornosec – Department of Minitrue. Produces the “lowest-kind” of pornography for the proles. In the Novel, it is described as a “sub-section of the Fiction Department which turned out cheap pornography for distribution among the proles. It was nicknamed Muck House by the people who worked in it”. They “produced booklets in sealed packets with titles like Spanking Stories or One Night in a Girls’ School, to be bought furtively by proletarian youths who were under the impression that they were buying something illegal.
prole – Proletarians. Approximately 85% of Oceania’s population are in this class. Members of the party viewed them as animals. They are not as rigidly observed as members of the party, and very few (if any) have telescreens in their home. They are permitted to indulge in pornography, prostitution, and other acts considered thoughtcrime, simply because it would be impossible to observe all of them as rigidly as the party observes its own members. Plus, allowing them to indulge in these “little joys” helps to keep the masses content.
prolefeed – Rubishy “Entertainment” and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses. This includes written literature, movies, porn, music, and other various propaganda created for the proles. (For a modern example of prolefeed, just turn on your television or radio. With the exception of some scientific programming, everything else is prolefeed.)
Recdep – Records Department – Department of the Ministry of Truth in which Winston Smith worked. Department responsible for correcting “mistakes” in past newspaper articles.
Reclamation Centre – Colony for children made homeless during the Atomic Wars.
ref – Reference.
resistance – The resistance was the revolutionary group which was supposedly led by the arch-traitor, Emmanuel Goldstein. There is some question as to whether or not this group actually existed. The novel seems to imply that the resistance was simply fabricated by the government, or at the very least, that the police had agents posing as real resistance members in order to catch possible recruits.
The only thing that is for sure, is that the party blamed every possible woe of society on this group. The resistance was blamed for spreading herpes, contaminating the water supply, forging government documents (which was the reason for so many “misprints” in the papers), abducting party members, helping to aim rocket bombs to targets on Airstrip One, and destroying industrial machinery. Every single thing that ever goes wrong is blamed on this group. For instance: Whenever the trains don’t run on time, it is said that the resistance has alter the train schedule … When a department does meet their production goal, it is said that the resistance has altered the original data, resulting in a over-estimation of production for that year.
Room 101 – The final punishment for thoughtcriminals in the Ministry of Love.
“The thing is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world….The worst thing in the world varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive, or death by fire, or by drowning, or by impalement, or fifty other deaths….. ”
click here to hear the room 101 scene from the movie.
Steamer – Prole word for Rocket Bomb
sexcrime – Having sex for enjoyment. Also, even having sex in the hope to create a family of your own. The only time that sex is considered goodsex is when it is performed in producing offspring for the party.
speakwrite – Voice recognition machines. (A fairly ‘futuristic’ concept, considering that this book was written in 1948)
speedwise – (adverb) quickly. One of the rules of newspeak is that any word can be turned into an adverb by adding the suffix “-wise”. This allowed the removal of repetitive words such asquickly and promptly from the language.
Teledep – The Teleprograms Department of the Ministry of Truth
Telescreen – Two way television. All party members has one in every room of their apartment. Because of this, the party member is never out of earshot of the latest party propaganda, and not one second goes by that they are not under the surveillance of the party. There was no way to change the channel, and the telescreen could not be turned off except by members of the Inner Party.
Thoughtcrime – see crimethink
Thinkpol – ThoughtPolice. Police force in charge of eliminating crimethink. The thought police monitor the public by way of spies (narcs), helicopters, and telescreens.
two minute hate – Daily telescreen specials in which various elements of crimethink were packaged into a parade of horrible images and sounds, at which, the viewers were expected to boo, hiss, curse. and release any negative emotions upon. To hear the Two Minute Hate from the opening credits of the movie, click here
unperson – Person that has been erased from existence by the government for breaking the law in some way. A unperson is completely erased from history. All records of their existence is removed from record, and all party members are expected to removed them from memory. To mention their name is considered thoughtcrime. This eliminates any possibility of martyrdom.
ungood – Bad. One of the rules of newspeak is that any word can be turned into its antonym by adding the prefix “un-“. This allowed the removal of repetitive words such as horrible, terrible, great, fantastic, and fabulous from the language.
“After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take “good”, for instance. If you have a word like “good”, what need is there for a word like “bad”? “Ungood” will do just as well — better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not.”
upsub – Get authorization from superiors (Submit to “Higher-ups” for approval)
vaporized – The act of being executed by the state, and having all records of your existence erased. Becoming an unperson.
versificator – A writing machine. A mechanical device that produced “literature” and “music” for the masses. This was necessary so that a party member would not be forced to cloud their mind with such frivolous concepts. It produced rubbishy newspapers containing almost nothing except sport, crime and astrology, sensational five-cent novelettes, films oozing with sex, and even sentimental songs.
Youth League – Mandatory children’s group under control of the Thought Police. Similar to the “Hitler Youth”. Their member’s primary task is to monitor the activities of their parents.
x yp n quarter – Method or writing a date. x= Year of the plan, n= quarter of year. (i.e. 3 yp 4th quarter)
George Orwell:‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’
Newspeak was the official language of Oceania and had been devised to meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. In the year 1984 there was not as yet anyone who used Newspeak as his sole means of communication, either in speech or writing.
The leading articles in the Times were written in it, but this was a tour de force which could only be carried out by a specialist. It was expected that Newspeak would have finally superseded Oldspeak (or Standard English, as we should call it) by about the year 2050. Meanwhile it gained ground steadily, all Party members tending to use Newspeak words and grammatical constructions more and more in their everyday speech.
The version in use in 1984, and embodied in the Ninth and Tenth Editions of the Newspeak Dictionary, was a provisional one, and contained many superfluous words and archaic formations which were due to be suppressed later. It is with the final, perfected version, as embodied in the Eleventh Edition of the Dictionary, that we are concerned here.
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. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought — that is, a thought diverging from the principles of Ingsoc — should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.
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 meanings 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 by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. To give a single example:
The word free still existed in Newspeak, but it could only be used in such statements as ‘This dog is free from lice’ or ‘This field is free from weeds’. It could not be used in its old sense of ‘politically free’ or ‘intellectually free’ since political and intellectual freedom no longer existed even as concepts, and were therefore of necessity nameless.
Quite apart from the suppression of definitely heretical words, reduction of vocabulary was regarded as an end in itself, and no word that could be dispensed with was allowed to survive. Newspeak was designed not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was indirectly assisted by cutting the choice of words down to a minimum.
Newspeak was founded on the English language as we now know it, though many Newspeak sentences, even when not containing newly-created words, would be barely intelligible to an English-speaker of our own day.
Newspeak words were divided into three distinct classes, known as the A vocabulary, the B vocabulary (also called compound words), and the C vocabulary. It will be simpler to discuss each class separately, but the grammatical peculiarities of the language can be dealt with in the section devoted to the A vocabulary, since the same rules held good for all three categories.
The A vocabulary. The A vocabulary consisted of the words needed for the business of everyday life — for such things as eating, drinking, working, putting on one’s clothes, going up and down stairs, riding in vehicles, gardening, cooking, and the like. It was composed almost entirely of words that we already possess words like hit, run, dog, tree, sugar, house, field — but in comparison with the present-day English vocabulary their number was extremely small, while their meanings were far more rigidly defined.
All ambiguities and shades of meaning had been purged out of them. So far as it could be achieved, a Newspeak word of this class was simply a staccato sound expressing one clearly understood concept. It would have been quite impossible to use the A vocabulary for literary purposes or for political or philosophical discussion. It was intended only to express simple, purposive thoughts, usually involving concrete objects or physical actions.
The grammar of Newspeak had two outstanding peculiarities. The first of these was an almost complete interchangeability between different parts of speech. Any word in the language (in principle this applied even to very abstract words such as if or when) could be used either as verb, noun, adjective, or adverb. Between the verb and the noun form, when they were of the same root, there was never any variation, this rule of itself involving the destruction of many archaic forms.
The word thought, for example, did not exist in Newspeak. Its place was taken by think, which did duty for both noun and verb. No etymological principle was followed here: in some cases it was the original noun that was chosen for retention, in other cases the verb. Even where a noun and verb of kindred meaning were not etymologically connected, one or other of them was frequently suppressed.
There was, for example, no such word as cut, its meaning being sufficiently covered by the noun-verb knife. Adjectives were formed by adding the suffix –ful to the noun-verb, and adverbs by adding –wise. Thus for example, speedful meant ‘rapid’ and speedwise meant ‘quickly’. Certain of our present-day adjectives, such as good, strong, big, black, soft, were retained, but their total number was very small. There was little need for them, since almost any adjectival meaning could be arrived at by adding –ful to a noun-verb.
None of the now-existing adverbs was retained, except for a very few already ending in –wise: the –wise termination was invariable. The word well, for example, was replaced by goodwise.
In addition, any word — this again applied in principle to every word in the language — could be negatived by adding the affix un-, or could be strengthened by the affix plus-, or, for still greater emphasis, doubleplus-. Thus, for example, uncold meant ‘warm’, while pluscold and doublepluscold meant, respectively, ‘very cold’ and ‘superlatively cold’.
It was also possible, as in present-day English, to modify the meaning of almost any word by prepositional affixes such as ante-, post-, up-, down-, etc. By such methods it was found possible to bring about an enormous diminution of vocabulary. Given, for instance, the word good, there was no need for such a word as bad, since the required meaning was equally well — indeed, better — expressed by ungood.
All that was necessary, in any case where two words formed a natural pair of opposites, was to decide which of them to suppress. Dark, for example, could be replaced by unlight, or light by undark, according to preference.
The second distinguishing mark of Newspeak grammar was its regularity. Subject to a few exceptions which are mentioned below all inflexions followed the same rules. Thus, in all verbs the preterite and the past participle were the same and ended in –ed. The preterite of steal was stealed, the preterite of think was thinked, and so on throughout the language, all such forms as swam, gave, brought, spoke, taken, etc., being abolished.
All plurals were made by adding –s or –es as the case might be. The plurals of man, ox, life, were mans, oxes, lifes. Comparison of adjectives was invariably made by adding –er, –est (good, gooder, goodest), irregular forms and the more, most formation being suppressed.
The only classes of words that were still allowed to inflect irregularly were the pronouns, the relatives, the demonstrative adjectives, and the auxiliary verbs. All of these followed their ancient usage, except that whom had been scrapped as unnecessary, and the shall, should tenses had been dropped, all their uses being covered by will and would.
There were also certain irregularities in word-formation arising out of the need for rapid and easy speech. A word which was difficult to utter, or was liable to be incorrectly heard, was held to be ipso facto a bad word: occasionally therefore, for the sake of euphony, extra letters were inserted into a word or an archaic formation was retained. But this need made itself felt chiefly in connexion with the B vocabulary.
Why so great an importance was attached to ease of pronunciation will be made clear later in this essay.
The B vocabulary. The B vocabulary consisted of words which had been deliberately constructed for political purposes: words, that is to say, which not only had in every case a political implication, but were intended to impose a desirable mental attitude upon the person using them.
Without a full understanding of the principles of Ingsoc it was difficult to use these words correctly. In some cases they could be translated into Oldspeak, or even into words taken from the A vocabulary, but this usually demanded a long paraphrase and always involved the loss of certain overtones.
The B words were a sort of verbal shorthand, often packing whole ranges of ideas into a few syllables, and at the same time more accurate and forcible than ordinary language.
The B words were in all cases compound words(2). They consisted of two or more words, or portions of words, welded together in an easily pronounceable form. The resulting amalgam was always a noun-verb, and inflected according to the ordinary rules.
To take a single example: the word goodthink, meaning, very roughly, ‘orthodoxy’, or, if one chose to regard it as a verb, ‘to think in an orthodox manner’. This inflected as follows: noun-verb, goodthink; past tense and past participle, goodthinked; present participle, goodthinking; adjective, goodthinkful; adverb, goodthinkwise; verbal noun, goodthinker.
The B words were not constructed on any etymological plan. The words of which they were made up could be any parts of speech, and could be placed in any order and mutilated in any way which made them easy to pronounce while indicating their derivation. In the word crimethink (thoughtcrime), for instance, the think came second, whereas in thinkpol (Thought Police) it came first, and in the latter word police had lost its second syllable.
Because of the great difficulty in securing euphony, irregular formations were commoner in the B vocabulary than in the A vocabulary. For example, the adjective forms of Minitrue, Minipax, and Miniluv were, respectively, Minitruthful, Minipeaceful, and Minilovely, simply because –trueful, –paxful, and –loveful were sliightly awkward to pronounce. In principle, however, all B words could inflect, and all inflected in exactly the same way.
Some of the B words had highly subtilized meanings, barely intelligible to anyone who had not mastered the language as a whole. Consider, for example, such a typical sentence from a Times leading article as Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc. The shortest rendering that 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.
To begin with, in order to grasp the full meaning of the Newspeak sentence quoted above, one would have to have a clear idea of what is meant by Ingsoc. And in addition, only a person thoroughly grounded in Ingsoc could appreciate the full force of the word bellyfeel, which implied a blind, enthusiastic acceptance difficult to imagine today; or of the word oldthink, which was inextricably mixed up with the idea of wickedness and decadence. But the special function of certain Newspeak words, of which oldthink was one, was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them.
These words, necessarily few in number, had had their meanings extended until they contained within themselves whole batteries of words which, as they were sufficiently covered by a single comprehensive term, could now be scrapped and forgotten. The greatest difficulty facing the compilers of the Newspeak Dictionary was not to invent new words, but, having invented them, to make sure what they meant: to make sure, that is to say, what ranges of words they cancelled by their existence.
As we have already seen in the case of the word free, words which had once borne a heretical meaning were sometimes retained for the sake of convenience, but only with the undesirable meanings purged out of them. Countless other words such as honour, justice, morality, internationalism, democracy, science, and religion had simply ceased to exist. A few blanket words covered them, and, in covering them, abolished them. All words grouping themselves round the concepts of liberty and equality, for instance, were contained in the single word crimethink, while all words grouping themselves round the concepts of objectivity and rationalism were contained in the single word oldthink. Greater precision would have been dangerous.
What was required in a Party member was an outlook similar to that of the ancient Hebrew who knew, without knowing much else, that all nations other than his own worshiped ‘false gods’. He did not need to know that these gods were called Baal, Osiris, Moloch, Ashtaroth, and the like: probably the less he knew about them the better for his orthodoxy. He knew Jehovah and the commandments of Jehovah: he knew, therefore, that all gods with other names or other attributes were false gods. In somewhat the same way, the party member knew what constituted right conduct, and in exceedingly vague, generalized terms he knew what kinds of departure from it were possible.
His sexual life, for example, was entirely regulated by the two Newspeak words sexcrime (sexual immorality) and goodsex (chastity). Sexcrime covered all sexual misdeeds whatever. It covered fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and other perversions, and, in addition, normal intercourse practised for its own sake. There was no need to enumerate them separately, since they were all equally culpable, and, in principle, all punishable by death. In the C vocabulary, which consisted of scientific and technical words, it might be necessary to give specialized names to certain sexual aberrations, but the ordinary citizen had no need of them.
He knew what was meant by goodsex — that is to say, normal intercourse between man and wife, for the sole purpose of begetting children, and without physical pleasure on the part of the woman: all else was sexcrime. In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception that it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were nonexistent.
No word in the B vocabulary was ideologically neutral. A great many were euphemisms. Such words, for instance, as joycamp (forced-labour camp) or Minipax (Ministry of Peace, i.e. Ministry of War) meant almost the exact opposite of what they appeared to mean. Some words, on the other hand, displayed a frank and contemptuous understanding of the real nature of Oceanic society. An example was prolefeed, meaning the rubbishy entertainment and spurious news which the Party handed out to the masses.
Other words, again, were ambivalent, having the connotation ‘good’ when applied to the Party and ‘bad’ when applied to its enemies. But in addition there were great numbers of words which at first sight appeared to be mere abbreviations and which derived their ideological colour not from their meaning, but from their structure.
So far as it could be contrived, everything that had or might have political significance of any kind was fitted into the B vocabulary. The name of every organization, or body of people, or doctrine, or country, or institution, or public building, was invariably cut down into the familiar shape; that is, a single easily pronounced word with the smallest number of syllables that would preserve the original derivation. In the Ministry of Truth, for example, the Records Department, in which Winston Smith worked, was called Recdep, the Fiction Department was called Ficdep, the Teleprogrammes Department was called Teledep, and so on.
This was not done solely with the object of saving time. Even in the early decades of the twentieth century, telescoped words and phrases had been one of the characteristic features of political language; and it had been noticed that the tendency to use abbreviations of this kind was most marked in totalitarian countries and totalitarian organizations. Examples were such words as Nazi, Gestapo, Comintern, Inprecorr, Agitprop. In the beginning the practice had been adopted as it were instinctively, but in Newspeak it was used with a conscious purpose. It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it.
The words Communist International, for instance, call up a composite picture of universal human brotherhood, red flags, barricades, Karl Marx, and the Paris Commune. The word Comintern, on the other hand, suggests merely a tightly-knit organization and a well-defined body of doctrine. It refers to something almost as easily recognized, and as limited in purpose, as a chair or a table. Comintern is a word that can be uttered almost without taking thought, whereas Communist International is a phrase over which one is obliged to linger at least momentarily.
In the same way, the associations called up by a word like Minitrue are fewer and more controllable than those called up by Ministry of Truth. This accounted not only for the habit of abbreviating whenever possible, but also for the almost exaggerated care that was taken to make every word easily pronounceable.
In Newspeak, euphony outweighed every consideration other than exactitude of meaning. Regularity of grammar was always sacrificed to it when it seemed necessary. And rightly so, since what was required, above all for political purposes, was short clipped words of unmistakable meaning which could be uttered rapidly and which roused the minimum of echoes in the speaker’s mind.
The words of the B vocabulary even gained in force from the fact that nearly all of them were very much alike. Almost invariably these words — goodthink, Minipax, prolefeed, sexcrime, joycamp, Ingsoc, bellyfeel, thinkpol, and countless others — were words of two or three syllables, with the stress distributed equally between the first syllable and the last. The use of them encouraged a gabbling style of speech, at once staccato and monotonous. And this was exactly what was aimed at. The intention was to make speech, and especially speech on any subject not ideologically neutral, as nearly as possible independent of consciousness.
For the purposes of everyday life it was no doubt necessary, or sometimes necessary, to reflect before speaking, but a Party member called upon to make a political or ethical judgement should be able to spray forth the correct opinions as automatically as a machine gun spraying forth bullets. His training fitted him to do this, the language gave him an almost foolproof instrument, and the texture of the words, with their harsh sound and a certain willful ugliness which was in accord with the spirit of Ingsoc, assisted the process still further.
So did the fact of having very few words to choose from. Relative to our own, the Newspeak vocabulary was tiny, and new ways of reducing it were constantly being devised. Newspeak, indeed, differed from most all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was a gain, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to take thought.
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, meaning ‘to quack like a duck’. Like various other 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.
The C vocabulary. The C vocabulary was supplementary to the others and consisted entirely of scientific and technical terms. These resembled the scientific terms in use today, and were constructed from the same roots, but the usual care was taken to define them rigidly and strip them of undesirable meanings. They followed the same grammatical rules as the words in the other two vocabularies. Very few of the C words had any currency either in everyday speech or in political speech.
Any scientific worker or technician could find all the words he needed in the list devoted to his own speciality, but he seldom had more than a smattering of the words occurring in the other lists. Only a very few words were common to all lists, and there was no vocabulary expressing the function of Science as a habit of mind, or a method of thought, irrespective of its particular branches. There was, indeed, no word for ‘Science’, any meaning that it could possibly bear being already sufficiently covered by the word Ingsoc.
From the foregoing account it will be seen that in Newspeak the expression of unorthodox opinions, above a very low level, was well-nigh impossible. It was of course possible to utter heresies of a very crude kind, a species of blasphemy. It would have been possible, for example, to say Big Brother is ungood. But this statement, which to an orthodox ear merely conveyed a self-evident absurdity, could not have been sustained by reasoned argument, because the necessary words were not available. Ideas inimical to Ingsoc could only be entertained in a vague wordless form, and could only be named in very broad terms which lumped together and condemned whole groups of heresies without defining them in doing so. One could, in fact, only use Newspeak for unorthodox purposes by illegitimately translating some of the words back into Oldspeak.
For example, All mans are equal was a possible Newspeak sentence, but only in the same sense in which All men are redhaired is a possible Oldspeak sentence. It did not contain a grammatical error, but it expressed a palpable untruth — i.e. that all men are of equal size, weight, or strength. The concept of political equality no longer existed, and this secondary meaning had accordingly been purged out of the word equal. In 1984, when Oldspeak was still the normal means of communication, the danger theoretically existed that in using Newspeak words one might remember their original meanings.
In practice it was not difficult for any person well grounded in doublethink to avoid doing this, but within a couple of generations even the possibility of such a lapse would have vanished. A person growing up with Newspeak as his sole language would no more know that equal had once had the secondary meaning of ‘politically equal’, or that free had once meant ‘intellectually free’, than for instance, a person who had never heard of chess would be aware of the secondary meanings attaching to queen and rook.
There would be many crimes and errors which would be beyond his power to commit, simply because they were nameless and therefore unimaginable. And it was to be foreseen that with the passage of time the distinguishing characteristics of Newspeak would become more and more pronounced — its words growing fewer and fewer, their meanings more and more rigid, and the chance of putting them to improper uses always diminishing.
When Oldspeak had been once and for all superseded, the last link with the past would have been severed. History had already been rewritten, but fragments of the literature of the past survived here and there, imperfectly censored, and so long as one retained one’s knowledge of Oldspeak it was possible to read them. In the future such fragments, even if they chanced to survive, would be unintelligible and untranslatable. It was impossible to translate any passage of Oldspeak into Newspeak unless it either referred to some technical process or some very simple everyday action, or was already orthodox (goodthinkful would be the Newspeak expression) in tendency.
In practice this meant that no book written before approximately 1960 could be translated as a whole. Pre-revolutionary literature could only be subjected to ideological translation — that is, alteration in sense as well as language. Take for example the well-known passage from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of those ends, it is the right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government…
It would have been quite impossible to render this into Newspeak while keeping to the sense of the original. The nearest one could come to doing so would be to swallow the whole passage up in the single word crimethink. A full translation could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson’s words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government.
A good deal of the literature of the past was, indeed, already being transformed in this way. Considerations of prestige made it desirable to preserve the memory of certain historical figures, while at the same time bringing their achievements into line with the philosophy of Ingsoc. Various writers, such as Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Byron, Dickens, and some others were therefore in process of translation: when the task had been completed, their original writings, with all else that survived of the literature of the past, would be destroyed. These translations were a slow and difficult business, and it was not expected that they would be finished before the first or second decade of the twenty-first century.
There were also large quantities of merely utilitarian literature — indispensable technical manuals, and the like — that had to be treated in the same way. It was chiefly in order to allow time for the preliminary work of translation that the final adoption of Newspeak had been fixed for so late a date as 2050.
2) Compound words such as speakwrite, were of course to be found in the A vocabulary, but these were merely convenient abbreviations and had no special ideologcal colour. [back]