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DOUBLESPEAK

DOUBLESPEAK. Language that diverts attention from, or conceals, a speaker's true meaning, or from what is on the speaker's mind, making the bad seem good, and the unpleasant attractive or at least tolerable. It seeks to avoid, shift, or deny responsibility, and ultimately prevents or limits thought. Doublespeak can be discussed in terms of euphemism, bureaucratese, JARGON, and inflated language. In 1984, the US State Department announced that in its annual reports on the status of human rights in countries around the world it would no longer use the word killing but instead the euphemism unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life. When asked why US military forces lacked intelligence information on Grenada before they invaded the island in 1983, Admiral Wesley L. McDonald replied: ‘We were not micromanaging Grenada intelligence-wise until about that time frame.’ When a company ‘initiates a career alternative enhancement program’ it is laying off 5,000 workers. With global communication, doublespeak spreads quickly within countries and around the world. It gains a certain legitimacy when used by public figures, especially leading political figures, and spreads by imitation.

The Doublespeak Award, an ironic tribute established in 1974, is presented annually by the Committee on Public Doublespeak of the NCTE. It is given each year to a person or organization in the US that has used public language that is, in the committee's judgment, deceptive, evasive, euphemistic, or self-contradictory. The Award is restricted to those uses of public language which have pernicious social, political, or economic consequences. Winners of the Award have included the nuclear power industry for using such terminology as rapid oxidation for fire, energetic disassembly for explosion, and abnormal evolution for accident, and the Pentagon for calling the neutron bomb a radiation enhancement weapon. See DOUBLE TALK, -SPEAK.

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