Newspeak, a language of fiction, was invented by George Orwell. The language was developed during the totalitarian party system to make speech hard to understand thus making speech impossible. Other than the media, newspeak as a language has continued to take over many other sectors today such as the business world, sports and schools among other sectors where people get to interact over varying issues. This is a major problem to the progress of the English language and hence should be a major area of concern for the future generations. With the view of trying to eliminate the use of this language among the media personnel Randy Michael, the executive officer for WGN introduced a list of names that he banned from being used by newscasters at this station. By continuing to become a language that is taking over the English language today, failure to eliminate the use of this language will have serious effects in our future society as indicated in the movie “Idiocracy”.
Definition and origin
Newspeak can be defined as a language of fiction that was invented by a writer called George Orwell in his book called “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. In his writing, this author included a small section related to the language. This is an appendix whereby he explains the various rules and guidelines that guide this language. Newspeak is a language that is related to English has not only been found to simplify grammar but also the use of vocabulary. For its origin, the language of newspeak was developed during the totalitarian party system to make speech hard to understand thus making speech impossible. The current English language referred to newspeak as old speaks and sought to completely bring it to an end by the year 2050 (Burgess, 1978).
George Orwell’s writing called “Politics and the English Language” can be seen as being the starting point of newspeak. This is through his lamentations on the quality of the existing English language during his time. In his lamentations, the author mentions several examples that include; pretentious forms of diction, dying metaphors and words he regarded as being meaningless and rhetoric. According to Orwell, these examples result in illogical thinking as well as ideas that lack clarity. The establishment of newspeak from Orwell’s point of view can be seen as that which is intended at exploiting the corruption of language through the oppression of those who use it to communicate (Young, 1991).
Charlie Meyerson’s argument
Charlie Meyerson’s (News Director for WGN) argument that the elimination of the use of the banned words by the executive officer at WGN-AM 720 was a way of enduring that the newscasters communicated effectively to the general audience. It also put the situation in a way that didn’t seem like they were reading a script rather than talking, which can be seen as being both true and false. On one side, banned words make up some of what is mainly used by the general public in their day to day talks hence, when news-casters use them, then they get to communicate to the general public in a language that they can associate with and with which they can effectively understand. On the other hand the banned words can be seen as clichés that are common in the media industry today and that should be gotten rid of. By banning the words, the executive officer seeks to enhance the correct use of language as well as professionalism. Professionalism could be one way through which the use of such words even among the public could be eliminated putting in mind that the media has great influence on culture and language especially the young people. Other than promoting professionalism, I believe that the elimination of these words will not in any way help in bettering communication to the general public. Too much professionalism will in fact make news boring and complicated to the public who vary in all levels such as socio-economic status, education background and level, job positions and type as well as age and sophistication. Professionalism in terms of language will only aim at communicating to a part of the public.
Elimination of newspeak in one’s communication is one way through which a person is able to enhance his or her level of reputation in communication or as a communicator. The use of news speak on the news can most often be regarded as being unprofessional. I however believe that the use of these words creates a connection between the newscasters and the general public, whose level of professionalism in speech varies on whom they are communicating to, and hence they can make a real connection to real people. In most cases, the general public does not notice any problems in the language used by the casters as they regard it as being ordinary. Only a language professional would notice the difference. The language of communication used by these casters however is not one that can be communicated to all people but only to some exceptions. It is for example that I can use to communicate to my friends, family and peers or to people who I socially associate with but I cannot use it to communicate to my professor or employer. News speak is basically a social language and not a professional one hence should only be used in exceptional situations and depending on the level of relationship between an individual and the person they are communicating with.
From a managerial point of view Randy Michael’s move to announce the ban on the words to the general public, as a way of communicating to his staff members, cannot be regarded as being the best approach to have been taken. The executive officer as well as Charlie Meyerson’s should have directly communicated with the newscasters and announced the ban on the words to them as well as get to hear their various opinions on the issue.
From the banned list, several phrases can be seen as being most offensive. These include; the use of ‘Yesterday’ to begin a sentence, ‘youth’ to mean child, ‘everybody’ in reference to the audience, ‘ Informed sources say, ‘some of you’, ‘sources say’, ‘those of you, ‘we’re back’, ‘welcome back everybody’, ‘you folks’. These words generalize the audience as one and therefore do not give specific details on who is being referred to. The use of yesterday does not specify which time of yesterday the caster is referring to.
Words and phrases that need to be added to this list include, ‘behind the scenes’, ‘controversial’, ’on our top news, tonight….’’grisly road accident’, ‘don’t go away’. These words leave a lot of questions to be answered. They are clichés that need to be completely dealt away with.
Weasel Words and Jargon
News speak has been found to be a language that promotes the use of clichés and other words and phrases that hinder the progress of the English language. The language involves the use of weasel words and jargon to communicate to the audience (Green, 1985).
As the use of newspeak continues to expand in our media today, the use of jargon has also been marked in many other sectors of the society today that include the business world, sports and schools among other sectors where people get to interact over varying issues (Klemperer & Brady, 2000). This is a major problem to the progress of the English language and hence should be a major area of concern for the future generations. The lack of commercialization and promotion for the movie “Idiocracy” shows how the public is ignorant and unwilling to change the rise of newspeak as a language that is taking over English. Based on how newspeak and use of jargon have taken over the society today, the movie has some truth in it. Unless something is done to stop its use, newspeak and use of jargon are going to take over the use of the English language.
Burgess, A. (1978). Nineteen Eighty-Five: Newspeak. Boston: Little Brown & Co.
Green, J. (1985) Newspeak: a dictionary of jargon. London, Boston: Routledge Publishers.
Klemperer, V. & Brady, M. (2000) The language of the Third Reich: LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: A Philologist’s Notebook. London: Athlone Press.
Young, J. (1991) Totalitarian Language: Orwell’s Newspeak and Its Nazi and Communist Antecedents. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.