Doublespeak

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Doublespeak is language deliberately constructed to disguise its actual meaning, such as euphemisms.

The word doublespeak was coined in the early 1950s. It is often incorrectly attributed to George Orwell and his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The word actually never appears in that novel; Orwell did, however, coin Newspeak, Oldspeak, duckspeak (speaking from the throat without thinking 'like a duck') and doublethink (holding "...simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them..."), and his novel made fashionable composite nouns with speak as the second element, which were previously unknown in English. It was therefore just a matter of time before someone came up with doublespeak. Doublespeak may be considered, in Orwell's lexicography, as the B vocabulary of Newspeak, words "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."

Whereas in the early days of the practice it was considered wrong to construct words to disguise meaning, this is now an accepted and established practice. There is a thriving industry in constructing words without explicit meaning but with particular connotations for new products or companies.

William Lutz, a professor at Rutgers University, has written several books about doublespeak and is the former editor of the Doublespeak Quarterly Review, which examines ways that jargon has polluted the public vocabulary with phrases, words and usages of words designed to obscure the meaning of plain English.

Examples

  • mrs broadwell: excellent teacher
  • aerial ordnance (military): bombs and missiles.
  • agenda: as in the Liberal Agenda or the Homosexual Agenda; used to discredit laws or programs sought after by the left by adding the feel of conspiracy and ill will to the venture.
  • alleged: actually perpetrated
  • ally: vassal state; colony.
  • American interests: 1. Corporate interests; keeping share prices up. 2. For the benefit of the rich.
  • asset (CIA term): foreign spy
  • associate: a low-level employee. Being "associated" sounds more dignified than being "employed" (or "used"), but also connotes being more loosely affiliated, i.e. having less job security.
  • asymmetric warfare: suicide bombing attacks, local violent unrest, almost anything that one does not wish to call war or terrorism. Military scientists define asymmetry in warfare as circumstances in which one side continues to fight regardless the disproportionate military capacity of an opponent.
  • Audio news release: Fake news as sound
  • axis of evil: countries to be attacked; Bush administration hitlist (currently includes Iran, North Korea, and possibly now Syria - threatening moves against Cuba and Venezuela also made by this regime).
  • balanced scientists: biased scientists.
  • biopesticide Bacillus thuringiensis - used in the Iraq Survey Group's Report (Duelfer Report) - Bacillus thuringiensis is a commonly used biological pest control that safely and effectively targets very specific species of caterpillar (different strains affect different species). It sold at Garden Centers virtually everywhere in the US under the name "BT", and is considered to be so benign that its use is approved on "organic" grown foods.
  • biosolids: sewage.
  • big government: government, of which portions are not controlled or owned by corporations
  • blowback: 1. the unintended consequences of secret or under-reported American intervention. Originally coined in internal CIA documents. Seldom used in public until recently; it is most effective to ensure as little as possible is known about the causes of enemy aggression. Distorted to become: 2. the threat of American-made weapons being turned against American troops [1]
  • boomerang effect: see blowback.
  • capital punishment: death penalty, state execution.
  • casualty: person killed or maimed in warfare.
  • classified: secret
    In World War II, secret information was distinguished into classes corresponding to increasing levels of security clearances, and came to be called classified information (as in "classified for a particular clearance"). Classified was also the second lowest grade of information in the UK - restricted ->classified ->secret, etc.
  • coalition of the willing: coalition of the coerced, paid, and afraid - also coalition of those billing referring to massive foreign aid bribes or coercive economic threats made against these states by Bush administration.
  • collateral damage: the killing of innocent bystanders, ecological destruction and environmental contamination.
  • competitive - 1. profitable 2. cheap until the little guy goes out of business
  • communication: propaganda.
  • communist: during the Cold War, any person, government or media that challenged American economic hegemony in the world.
  • consumer: increasingly used in place of "citizen" when referring to the individual. Indicative of the growing assumption that democracy equals capitalism.
  • Corporate America: 1. "an informal phrase describing the business world of the United States ... It is frequently used in a negative sense that implies greed." 2. "The term is also used to group all of the United States' corporations into one group (Ignoring positive and negative conotations)." [2]
  • corporation: 1. oligarchy 2. A profit-driven entity destined to ultimately consist of lawers and other such experts in combination with the minimum number of other people required to justify the ownership of the largest number of things possible. These will then be used to a) extort the largest amount of money possible. b) Convince the largest number of people possible that owned items are worth paying for.
  • counseling: in business, often a euphemism for reprimanding and/or warning an employee.
  • creation science: religion pretending to be science; see also intelligent design.
  • criminal extremist organization: subjective phrase for anyone or any group that poses a perceived threat.
  • crusade: war
  • death tax: estate tax
  • debunking: sophistry
  • decapitation strike: turn of phrase recently used to describe the bombing of structures where military or political leaders are assumed to be.
  • defense: war
    As in Department of Defense, formed by the merging of the Department of War and Department of the Navy.
  • defence budget: 1. corporate subsidy 2. attack budget
  • dehousing: (WWII) allied bombing of German civilian homes.
  • deregulation: reapportioning profiteering opportunities for corporate America by reducing or removing democratically controlled regulatory oversight.
  • detainee: prisoner of war (e.g. on terrorism.)
  • developing nations: poor countries, regardless of economic progress or the lack thereof.
  • digital rights management: software/hardware which restricts people from excercising their rights; in particular of fair use.
  • disarmament: unilateral process whereby one side to a conflict hands over its arms to the other side; also refers to mutual agreements to reduce numbers of weapons.
  • distorting the market: 1. putting people before profits 2. intervention in profiteering 3. provision of services by government
  • doublespeak: 1. professional jargon used by members of a disliked profession. 2. unfamiliar vocabulary, e.g. a French word
  • downsize, rightsize, RIF (reduction in force): fire employees. "Downsize" at first applied to products, meaning to supply less product for the same price, e.g. 14 oz. instead of a full pound of coffee.
  • eco: implies "ecology", which is the study of community population dynamics. Sometimes added as a prefix to other terms to mislead the public.
  • economic growth: raw increase in Gross National Product - see economic growth, uneconomic growth, productivism, consumerism, militarism, accounting reform for issues with this equivalence.
  • efficient: profitable
  • embedded: used by US military authorites in 1991 and 2003 to describe the policy of inviting journalists to war. Reporters are absorbed into advancing military units, and may even dress like soldiers. Critics say embedded reporters are psychologically inclined to see themselves as part of the military operation, and are restricted in what they can report, and who they can talk to (see: Ted Koppel).
  • enemy combatant: legal wording to get around the Geneva Conventions ' protective rights for those captured in combat
  • enhanced interrogation: torture
  • environmental security: securing the environment for corporate exploitation.
  • essential services: infrastructure corporations haven't worked out how to make a profit from without the public noticing yet
  • ethnic cleansing: genocide
  • executive assistant: secretary
  • externality: a cost which is not figured into the price, and is borne by the public. See essential services.
  • extraordinary rendition: Deliver terror suspects to foreign intelligence services without extradition proceedings.
  • failed state: A weak enemy. See rogue state.
  • finding: Whites taking food in a disaster (see looting)
  • freedom fighter: A terrorist furthering American interests
  • free speech zone: an area set aside for protesters in which law enforcement supposedly will not interfere with them if they stay within it, but may assail or arrest them if they venture out of it. Often at a removed location from which the protesters won't be seen or heard by those participating in the event being protested.
  • free fire zone: area under attack by US troops in which the napalming and bombing of villages and shooting of journalists, women and children was permitted
  • forced disarmament: war
  • fourth-generation warfare: Government-managed terrorism. The idea that warfare passes through "generations" is meant to imply that progress or evolution toward some desirable goal is being made.
  • fractional reserve banking: monopolistic or oligarchic private cartel controlling central banking, facilitating economic parasitism by the rich; see this scientific economics paper.
  • general trade: criminal smuggling organized by tobacco companies itself
  • globalization: 1. the expansion of corporations beyond the bounds of one political nation; the growth of the US empire
  • human intelligence; also HUMINT: spies.
  • humbled: actually brimming with smug pride, but seeking to be perceived as humble for the approval of easily hoodwinked "values" voters.
  • improvised explosive device (IED): Bombs used in roadside ambushes on vehicles. Perhaps called "improvised" to disparage those who make and use them.
  • illegal combatants: prisoners of war who are deprived of basic human rights and of any legal rights under existing international conventions regarding treatment of prisoners
  • illegals: refugees seeking asylum - perfectly legally - in Australia; term used by the Australian Government under Prime Minister John Howard.
  • infomercial: a broadcast advertisement filling an entire program slot, often repeating the same body of content several times. Usually referred to in program listings as "paid programming"
  • intelligent design: euphemism for creationism
  • interrogation techniques/methods - tortures applied by U.S. military(e.g. in liberated Iraq)
  • irregulars: Pentagon-speak for "everybody else"
  • irregularities: 1. corporate accounting fraud 2. evidence of election fraud
  • job flexibility : lack of job security
  • job security : the pretense of continued employment
  • less-than lethal: less-common euphemism than nonlethal
  • levels: prices
  • Lessons can be learnt from industry: this is not increasing the value or dividends of my shares
  • liberal: 1. weird perverts 2. people who care 3. people who can't make up their minds 4. people who hate business 5. people who hate America 6. Nothing at all: liberal is an adjective, not a noun.
  • liberate: 1. invade 2. destroy 3. steal
  • Literal interpretation of the Bible Bizarre interpretations by a minority of Christians. For example Left Behind is often described by the media as "based on a literal interpretation of the Bible" despite neither the word "rapture" nor any concept resembling it being found in the Bible, or anywhere in Christian tradition until the 19th century.
  • looting: Blacks taking food in a disaster (see finding)
  • manifest destiny: imperialism
  • material support: food, water, shelter, money or other resources
  • media bias: lack of sufficient bias towards the purported interests of their owners.
  • militant: terrorist, rioter, etc.
  • move on: used by those who want to keep making the same mistakes over and over, usually because they profit from them. "So I got drunk and hit you again, now's not the time to play the blame game, it's time to move on...And pour me a shot, woman!" Accuses any kind of debriefing, investigation, accountabity or any kind of learning whatsoever as being emotionalism. Implies that the victims of the latest disaster don't matter anyway, at least compared to the recipients of the estate tax cut, or whoever the latest focus of the administration is.
  • nation building: imposing or influencing a new domestic polity
  • negative patient care outcome: death
  • neutralize: to kill or to render politically ineffective by imprisonment, damage to reputation, ideological seduction or distraction
  • new and improved: smaller, more expensive and less useful
  • New World Order: globalization; imperialization
  • non-core promise: a promise not kept, in most cases a lie from the start; invented by Australian Prime Minister John Howard
  • non-duty, non-pay status: fired
  • nonlethal weapons: weapons that may or may not kill the person they are used on
  • now is not the time... During any administration-caused catastrophe, calls for accountable government are dismissed with "now is not the time to play the blame game, there will be plenty of time later"...Later is defined by the moment that calls for accountable government are dismissed with "why can't you just move on?"
  • oppressed minority: unpopular radicals with large wallets. (see radical)
  • pain compliance: Torture
  • patriotism: unquestioning loyalty to other peoples' interests
  • person of interest: suspect in a crime
  • personal responsibility: The notion that persons other than oneself are responsible for all problems.
  • piracy: 1. The forced boarding of a vessel to remove all valuables and possibly murder the passengers 2. the duplication of a sequence of data legally recognised to be owned by some other entity
  • playing the blame game: Used to dismiss calls for accountable government. Implies that the first priority of people who have had their families killed and their lives destroyed is to have fun making a few cheap political shots.
  • playing Politics: As a general rule, any side that accuses the other of playing politics with an issue is losing the debate.
  • playing the Race Card: - Used to dismiss any concern of non-whites, accuses non-whites of being manipulative and having a sneaky, strategic agenda (these recycled accusations were previously used against Jews with infamous effectiviness).
  • pre-dawn vertical insertion: invasion of Grenada; Early morning paradrop of troops/equipment
  • pre-emptive strike: 1. US military an unprovoked attack 2. advertising, propaganda to provide an excuse, distraction or cover story before the truth is exposed
  • pre-hostility: Build up of war making apparatus before hostilites are initiated
  • pre-owned: used, second-hand.
  • privatization: profit opportunities for corporate America; usually refers to transfer of former public sector services to management by private firms
  • pro-growth tax policies: Laws or policies designed to stimulate economic growth. Usually based upon academic theories implemented by current administration that involve reducing taxes for the wealthy while cutting services that primarily benefit the poor
  • promotion: propaganda
  • propaganda: information coming from an opposing or independent source
  • Protest: Violent coups and riots, when commited by corporate-allied forces (As in the Venezuela Coup)
  • quaint: inconvenient
  • race-baiting: Used to dismiss any concern of non-whites, this term implies that non-whites are animals. Hypocritically, this very term is used by the right to stoke racial hatred, scapegoating, and other irrational behavior, thus to even use the term "race-baiting" is to engage in it.
  • (race) Vote-fraud: a trumped-up excuse to commit election fraud by destroying the voting rights of non-whites. The very implies if whites vote twice there's nothing wrong with it.
  • radical: 1. popular opinion 2. person voicing popular opinions ignored by media with strong coverage 3. person in vague proximity to a another voicing popular opinion ignored by media with strong coverage (see oppressed minority)
  • relocation: forcible abduction (often in reference to members of indigenous communities)
  • regime change: a forceful change of government by a foreign power; Pax Americana
  • remains: As used by the Department of Defense in reference to unidentitified missing soldiers, the word "remains" refers not to the actual physical remains, but to an abstract concept deduced from circumstances. [3]
  • rendition: the deportation of prisoners by one country to another not burdened by following international laws, for the purpose of torture.
  • Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE): An industry organization whose mission is to defend the use of pesticides, and to counterattack any attempts by communities or government to stop or control the use of pesticides.
  • revenue enhancement: tax increase
  • revolution in military affairs (RMA): Pentagon term for combat using high-tech, precision-guided munitions; see military-industrial complex and Revolution in military affairs
  • riot: An anti-Corporate protest where someone is arrested, even if they are protesting lawfully and are later released without charge. See protest
  • rogue nation: enemy able to deploy some form of force; usually one that is not aligned with a group of other nations in agreements regarding conduct of warfare. Also see failed state, United States as a rogue nation
  • security contractors: mercenary troops, or agencies that provide them
  • servicing the target: killing the enemy, destroying targeted facilities.
  • shaping the battlefield: Killing some people or destroying facilities in order to make it easier to kill or capture others, usually by preliminary bombardment or shelling
  • shock and awe: massive bombing, effects-based operation.
  • small government: absence of all programmes, e.g. social welfare programs, that are not corporate externalities and often a smaller tax burden on the wealthy
  • smart bomb: usually air-launched explosives configured with guidance system
  • softening: the elimination of any barrier to a full-scale attack
  • sound science: pro-corporate, anti-environmental science
  • spin: often refers to outright lies, but generally implies an effort to portray events in a light favorable to the one doing the spin.
  • stable: Controlled by forces that will allow American economic incursion (see above), stability, stabilised, stabilisation; forces moved into South Vietnam to ensure its stability, we are keen to see stability in the Middle East
  • subsidy: welfare for constituents
  • surgical strike: military attack; this phrase evokes a medical metaphor to suggest that warfare is a form of healing, as if a regime was a "cancer" or "tumour," while the warrior-leaders are painted as trustworthy surgeons.
  • sustainable population: population control.
  • take down: kill someone (military language).
  • take out: assassinate an individual or destroy a target.
  • target of opportunity: human beings to be assassinated; target or prey fortuitously encountered or discovered.
  • taxpayer: citizen
    The word taxpayer means someone who pays taxes, and when used in a discussion of government revenues is not doublespeak. However, using the term interchangeably with citizen - the military is there to protect the taxpayers - implies that the primary role of a citizen is to pay taxes, or more generally, that the social contract (again, a term with a particular bias) between citizen and state is primarily economic. This usage has become popular in certain conservative and libertarian groups in the United States: c.f. Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Taxpayers Union.
  • terminate with extreme prejudice: kill. A dead person can never be rehired.
  • terrorist: armed political rebel working against "American interests" (see above).
    Note however, that in scholarly contexts, "terrorist" is usually defined in a way consistent with the biases of the politics of the region where the scholastic institution is located. See also freedom fighter.
  • transfer: mass deportation.
  • transfer tubes: body bags.
  • trickle-down: refers to the oft-refuted theory that wealth accumulated by the upper strata of a society will benefit members of lower economic classes, where it is known as "dribble-on".
  • unbiased: Used to imply correctness or truth. Lack of significant pre-judgement or conflict of interest is substantially different from reaching truth.
  • unclassified: not secret.
    Once "classified" became a euphemism for "secret," information that wasn't secret was then called unclassified, which carries the implication that the natural state of information is to be classified, in other words, to be kept secret from outsiders.
  • unmanned aerial vehicles: As in "Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical and biological weapons across broad areas." Two balsa wood radio-controlled aircraft with duct-taped struts and a range of about five miles were discovered. Assuming these drones were prototypes not for surveillance but dispersing chemicals, Bush did not explain how these minuscule and fragile aircraft models might fare over a 5,500 mile journey to U.S. mainland or why they would not be shot down as soon as they crossed Iraq's "No Fly" zone.
  • Video news release: Fake news in video format
  • vertically deployed anti-personnel devices: bombs.
  • viral: Opponents of the GNU GPL license sometimes describe one of its properties as being "viral". Often proponents do too.
  • wet work: assassination.
  • values: 1. being deeply concerned about things that have no bearing on the operation of the country 2. talking points
  • Super-Intelligence Support Activity:1. secret missions designed to "stimulate reactions" among terrorist groups, provoking them into committing violent acts which would then expose them to "counterattack" by U.S. forces.

NOTE: This article is adapted from a Wikipedia article by the same name but includes some loaded terms. Some definitions may include doublespeak.

External links