D-Speak or Not?

Doublespeak Detection

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. -George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"


How Do You Spot Doublespeak?

Even though you know the definition of doublespeak and are familiar with the different forms it can take, you may still have a hard time detecting doublespeak. One way to spot doublespeak and its accompanying insincerity is to ask questions about what is being said.

Lutz and others recommend asking these questions:
  1. Who is saying what to whom?
  2. Under what conditions?
  3. Under what circumstances?
  4. With what intent?
  5. With what results?

By asking and answering these questions, you will be able to see the whole context of the discourse, or the "semantic environment" as Lutz calls it.

To analyze any type of discourse, you will need to look at both the speakers and the receivers, the purposes of the speakers and receivers, the language that is normally used in similar situations, and the language that is actually used in a particular situation. Detecting doublespeak can be hard work!

Where Do You Look to Find Doublespeak?

Doublespeak occurs frequently when people use the language of one semantic environment in another. For example, even though several government officials had broken the law and later lied under oath to cover up what they had done, President Bush pardoned them, using the language of patriotism in the semantic context of law. The ones who broke the law were not "criminals," but "patriots," and what they had done was a "criminalization of policy differences," not an illegal act.

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  ©1998 by Michele Damron
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Last updated 4/30/98.