Forbid, avoid and change the words make no sense and serve no purpose
Everything has been said and written about Roald Dahl: yes, the changes in his books are ridiculous, no, these changes are not imposed on us by the state, but by Netflix, and yes, it is because of the “zeitgeist” , a narrow spectrum who thinks erasing “ugly” words leads to the disappearance of ugly thoughts; one immediately thinks of George Orwell’s famous “Newspeak”.
“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words,” a Ministry of Truth official said in Orwell’s 1984. “If you have a word like ‘good’, why do you need the word ‘bad’? ‘Ungood’ suits this very well (…). Or, if you’re looking for a stronger version of “good”, what good is a bunch of useless vague words like “excellent” and “superb” and so on? ‘Plusgoed’ covers the load, or ‘double plusgoed’, if you’re looking for something even stronger.’
“That sounds entirely plausible,” says Devil’s Advocate. Esperanto (an artificial language, like Orwell’s Newspeak) also uses such a method. ‘good’ is ‘bono’, ‘bad’ is ‘malbono’, ‘grand’ is ‘grande’, small is ‘malgrande’, ‘healthy’ is ‘sano’, unhealthy is ‘malsano’. Well, you get the system.
In a totalitarian state like Orwell’s fictional Oceania (thank goodness), a language like Esperanto could thrive; matter of forcibly teaching him at school. For example, the whole Soviet Union, with its dozens of people speaking different languages, also had to learn Russian (it was convenient when I lived there: I could talk to everyone, from Lithuanians to Tajiks and Turkmens), but with Esperanto this is never a problem as most people prefer to speak a natural language.
I read again 1984, because you still hear the word “Orwellian” a lot lately. In the real year 1984, the book was also very trendy. Many people in the Free West were then very afraid of communism, including everything that was concocted behind the iron curtain; although hardly anyone knows the ins and outs, as you couldn’t just walk in and out. Orwell was not far off with his visionary dystopia, we feared; but yes, five years later the Berlin Wall came down, and everything was fine (at least it seemed that way for a while).
However, Orwell is again in the news, mainly because of his “Newspeak”. “You don’t understand the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary is shrinking every year? (…) Don’t you understand that the whole purpose of Newspeak is to limit the space of thought? Ultimately, we will make misconceptions literally impossible, because there will be no words to express them.
Well then it’s not too bad here I thought when I 1984 out. It is true that we are under quite strong pressure from a small group of fanatics to use or not to use certain words, but we are not tortured or killed if we stubbornly refuse. It’s good.
The tragedy is that this small group of fanatics is so terribly wrong. Prohibiting, avoiding and changing the words makes no sense and serves no purpose. Take the phenomenon of the “Mongolian”. It was a sweet word, much kinder than “someone with Down syndrome.” But there came a time when something (the zeitgeist?) or someone (yes, who?) decided that wasn’t a good word. It had to be ‘Downie’ from now on.
And what do we see now? The children in the playground are no longer called “mongol”, but “downie”.
Yes, it works well.
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