Okay, I watch too much television. Too much Comedy Central to be more specific. To be more precise, too much late night ‘news’ shows. Last night, Mr. John Stewart opened his show with ‘Orwellian’ language, which I very much appreciated, as much as doublespeak is a cliche these days. But I like cliche. The very idea indicates that it’s popular, and even if it’s been beaten into the ground too many times I don’t believe that it’s impossible to resurrect any meaning.
The habits we persist in day to day bear innumerable linguistic inaccuracies. I was pondering over this tidbit today over my morning cup of coffee. We used to compete in our office over who drank the most coffee, always gauged by cups. Have you measured your cup lately? Mine is 16oz. Yours may be 12. or 24. But we measure by cups, not ounces. If I drink 3 cups of coffee a day and you drink only two, then I win, even if my ‘cup’ is smaller.
People cite Orwell because of his prodigious impact on culture, but we tend to forget Lowry. And that’s not just because it’s easy to brush children’s literature aside, especially when it’s labeled as such. Lowry’s The Giver contains a similar linguistic message, but one that encompasses more historical undertones than political or cognitive. Lowry’s message is centered around the absence of communal memory is her imagined society. In The Giver, doublespeak is referred to in terms of accuracy of language. Remember the moment when the protagonist tells his mother that he loves her? She berates him for using the word ‘love’ inaccurately. In a society such as theirs, without a history of familial cohesion, the simple yet indefinable term loses its meaning.
There is just so much inaccuracy in the way we use language today, and many of the historically imprecise habits we practice on a regular basis become true after a while. We forget the historical meaning of words and phrases, giving way to the vernacular over time. Can any value be placed on that? I guess that’s up to the historians.