Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Oldspeak? Newspeak? Bushspeak.

In 1984, George Orwell describes a fictional language called Newspeak which is a reduced and simplified version of English (Oldspeak). He presents it as an essential tool of the totalitarian regime of the Party, whose aim was to make any alternative thinking or speech impossible. Without pushing the comparison too far, Bush's accidental use of neologisms is interesting as it seems to help him define his policy and his thinking.

After Grecians, Kosovians, and East Timorians the US president has once again extented the English lexicon with the word Hezbollians . Under the title "Vocabulary Lessen" (enjoy the phonetic play on words), the Wall Street Journal has not failed to notice Bush's latest neologism in a string of words ever more matching his antiterror policy:

President Bush, known for coining new words along with his evolving antiterror policy (think “suiciders”) described the rocket launches against Israel as “Hezbollian attacks.” (Spelling courtesy of official White House transcription.)

As Language Log observes, "Bush provided some linguistic evidence that he is prepared to treat Hezbollah not just as an entity controlled by a nation-state, but as the equivalent of a nation-state — or at least a major ethnonational group worthy of a toponymic suffix."

L.L. also suggests a range of new possibilities of Newspeak such Hamasian, Talibanian, Al-Qaedian and even Colombia's FARCians, Peru's Shining Pathians or Spain's ETAnians.


NOTE: when Bush told Tony Blair "See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over," at the G8 Summit earlier this week, it occured to me that whereas most of the media focused their attention on the @#$* word they failed to report the problem of the misuse of the word "irony".

Whatever definition one may emphasize, I fail to see the irony in the situation - call me a language purist (cf. Slate) but still... :

Irony (


1. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.

2. An expression or utterance marked by a deliberate contrast between apparent and intended meaning.

3. A literary style employing such contrasts for humorous or rhetorical effect.


1. Incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs: “Hyde noted the irony of Ireland's copying the nation she most hated” (Richard Kain).

2. An occurrence, result, or circumstance notable for such incongruity.


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