Doublespeak (sometimes called doubletalk) is language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs), making the truth less unpleasant, without denying its nature. It may also be deployed as intentional ambiguity, or reversal of meaning (for example, naming a state of war "peace"). In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth, producing a communication bypass.
The term doublespeak was coined in the 1950s. Inspired by George Orwell's 1949 dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, after the fashion of "doublethink." The model word is described in the novel:
Winston sank his arms to his sides and slowly refilled his lungs with air. His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them… - (Orwell, New American Library, 1981, p35)
Orwell used the terms newspeak (in contrast with oldspeak, English) though newspeak is not a synonym for doublespeak. The term double talk (with a similar meaning) dates back to 1936.
- Baar, James. (2004). Spinspeak II: The Dictionary of Language Pollution. ISBN #1-4184-2742-X
- Lutz, William. (1987). Doublespeak: From "Revenue Enhancement" to "Terminal Living": How Government, Business, Advertisers, and Others Use Language to Deceive You. New York: Harper & Row.
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