Confucius observed that the first order of business in rebuilding a collapsed society is to restore the proper meaning of words. On the other hand, the Ministry of Truth’s Eleventh Edition of the NewSpeak Dictionary eliminated thousands of words from the English language (wow, how DoublePlusUnGood!).
I wonder who’s winning. Today I read that two political personages have uttered forbidden words. “Tar baby” and “blood libel” are evidently not mere figures of speech, they are nooses (uh-oh) with which certain speakers can apparently hang themselves. And there are others (try writing about the “abortion holocaust”).
Sometimes vocabulary does trump the message. For instance, I find it hard to read anything laced with profanity. And constant errors in grammar or spelling can quickly become distracting. But Big Brother is winning if the Thought Police can tell us that only certain ideas are permitted to be discussed, and that a certain approved and limited vocabulary is required unless prior permission is granted.5:12 pm on January 12, 2011 Email Christopher Manion