Newspeak, MSN, 1984, and "forbidden" words


7 comments posted
Commas and question marks

Ironic, it struck me -- after Winston Smith, the main character of "1984" is discovered to be against the state, personified by B.B. (Big Brother), Smith is "rehabilitated" - tortured at the Ministry of Love - and after being sufficiently destroyed psychologicaly, he is made part of a committee to figure out if commas should be inside or outside the quotation marks.

It is not that funny though. The last lines of the book are chilling. There are no martyrs in 1984. When they are shot, the State makes sure that the person - like in China - understands the justice of the punishment.

I recall this from memory from 1963, but I think I have it close. "[How foolish he had been; what a terrible misunderstanding] A gin scented tear trickled down his check as the bullet entered his brain. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother."

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 15 June 2005 - 10:25am
a related topic of interest for you

You may post your comment to this essay.

Tseten's picture
Posted by Tseten (not verified) on 16 June 2005 - 9:37am
I posted this is response to the above

I posted this is response to an an invitation to post.


There is a darker side to the use of words and I address this in an on Media Girl.

Removing words from search engines is an attempt to control what can be discussed. The next step is removing words from an entire language.

Since the dawn of language, borrowings have been part of living languages. When language ceases to evolve, it is a dead language.

On the other hand, dropping words that have political implications is different and we ought to be watchful when governments and business and technology, what Eisenhower called "the military-industrial complex" collude to keep people from communicating.

Matsu's picture
Posted by Matsu on 18 June 2005 - 6:21am

Hallo Matsu

Thank you for your valuable input.



Tseten's picture
Posted by Tseten (not verified) on 21 June 2005 - 9:31am
Doublegood plus!

Fabulous observations, and so true. Which is maybe why "Brave New World" and "1984" are out of favor in schools these days. No sense giving the peasants a chance at realizing that we are so close to telescreens, that revisionist history is practiced by our current administration, and that half our kids and large numbers of our adults are indeed taking a soma a day to keep the troubles away.

media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 15 June 2005 - 10:28am
Learn to think like a search engine

Orwell wasn't making it up, was he?

I got to talking to some friends a few weeks ago, and it turned out all of us were bothered by our decreasing ability to recall simple, everyday words on a regular basis. You know, the sort of brain fart that leads to a person making statements like, "It's the thing with the stuff that, you know."

We did some further talking and realized we all spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with search engines, and have therefore had to learn to think as they do - which is to say, extremely primitively compared to an organic brain. Could we actually be limiting our associative abilities by retraining our minds to think in as linear and non-contextual a way as a search engine?

When you're raising a small child, you have to learn to think like one all over again, and it gets hard to remember how to talk to adults. Search engines are far less sophisticated than three year olds.

BetaCandy's picture
Posted by BetaCandy on 18 June 2005 - 12:24am
Why business can be so stupid

There's a theory that business strategy is limited by what can be distilled into PowerPoint presentations, because that's how business managers communicate within the company. Same thing, and much more pernicious than the cliches of long-term thinking limited to the next quarter.

Who can think sustained thoughts past the 5-7 minutes we have in commercial television between commercials? We're trained to think in short spurts. The repeated interruptions of crap we have no interest in train us not to think for long periods of time. As an adaptive measure, we try to make commercials into what we really want to see, just to cope with the total powerlessness of the television experience.

Another reason to hold out hope for the internet -- it might train the public to think beyond sound bites.


media girl's picture
Posted by media girl on 18 June 2005 - 12:40am