Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I just finished reading 1984. It was one of those books that I had been meaning to read for years, and I just never got around to it. Well, I finally did and, as odd as this sounds, it actually gave me hope for our culture. From what I had heard about this book before I read it, I gathered that it was all about oppressive government monitoring it's citizens and controlling their lives. In some ways, I guess it was. To me though, it seemed that the much more important aspect of the story was the fact that the people accepted the oppression, and the ways in which "The Party" ensured this acceptance.

One of the most important tactics they used was the invention of a  language called "Newspeak" which was basically a trimmed down and simplified form of English. The goal of this new language was to continuously narrow down the options for expressing ideas until it finally reached the point where it would be impossible for anyone to express any thought or feeling which went against what The Party believed. I found this idea quite disturbing; forcing people to behave in a certain way by gradually decreasing their ability express their disapproval. This is why the story actually made me feel better about our current society. Say what you will about our modern culture, but if there is one thing we do not lack, it is the means to express ourselves.

I remember, a while back, when I heard that the word selfie had been added to the dictionary, I was annoyed. I thought that it was ridiculous that we are making these sorts of seemingly meaningless words official, and I thought it reflected badly on our society as a whole. I started thinking about these new, often blatantly silly, words in the context of 1984 though, and realized that maybe they aren't so bad. When you think about it, inventing new words, new forms of old words, and various abbreviations of words, are all just ways of expanding our abilities to communicate more easily.

xkcd recently made a very good point, on a similar subject.


  1. I really need to read 1984! I love the point you are making. Knowing more words definitely expands the way we see the world. They proved that cultures that don't have a word for a specific color (in the study I read it was blue) actually don't see the color. Their eyes literally don't recognize it as separate from other colors. Words have such power. Gotta read that book.

    1. It was pretty good, and definitely made me think. You're welcome to borrow it anytime, if you want. I heard about that study, that was so fascinating to me! It really is amazing how much impact words can have on our thought process.