"Oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc."
Newspeak is a fictive language invented by George Orwell for the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Newspeak was the official language of Oceania, and the inhabitants of Oceania were 'encouraged' to think and converse in Newspeak.
The goal of Newspeak was essentially the reduction of vocabulary and destruction of words, especially synonyms and antonyms (so, for example, if the word "good" exists, then the word "bad" is unnecesary and would be abolished and replaced by "ungood"; in fact, every edition of the Newspeak Dictionary was smaller than its predecessor), with the goal of rendering the language instinctively euphemistic and suppressing any possibility of expressing rebellious thoughts against the Party in the form of words. Based on the rules of Basic English and the (now discredited) strong form of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis (the weak form is also controversial), it was intended to be a psychological and linguistic Restraining Bolt on the population of Oceania. Its construction is similar to Esperanto (Ungood/Malbona) and other compounding languages (such as German). Contraction conventions from historical totalitarian regimes were also incorporated, resulting in words like "Ingsoc" which are similar in construction to "Comintern", "Nazi" and "Gestapo". Acronyms are used extensively. The Party predicted (or propagandized) that Newspeak would completely supplant English by 2050.
Orwell provided an appendix discussing the features of the language in the novel.
As noted above, many features of Newspeak are in fact similar to the features of real life compounding languages, including German and Russian, but also many Native American languages. This gave Newspeak a certain "totalitarian flavor" at a time when both (East) Germany and Russia had totalitarian governments. This point may be lost today, if only due to the popularity of the phenomenon, the theory that there is a connection between language and social behavior being mostly discredited (after all, people can go through many different governments, totalitarian or not, without changing their language). Also, this makes Newspeak especially difficult to portray in a translation of Nineteen Eighty-Four into a language that is already agglutinative. If the word for "bad" in your native language is already something like "ungood", translators will have a hard time coming up with a Newspeak version of it.
Strictly speaking, neither German nor Russian is an agglutinative language. The difference between them and English is one of spelling, that in German a compound is written as one word ("Physiklehrer") while in English it is written as two ("physics teacher"). Russian has to put the word "physics" in the genitive case and put it after "teacher", where German and English use "noun + noun" compounds. The feature that Orwell imitated in Newspeak was a way of combining clipped elements of different words into one, because that became very pronounced in the language used by the Nazi and Soviet Communist regimes. However, linguistically speaking they are not that different from portmanteau words (like "brunch" and "NaNoWriMo") or acronyms pronounced as words (like "radar" and "laser") and such constructions were freely, if less frequently, used before, after and apart from the two totalitarian regimes.
(In some cases, the popularized term is not actually Newspeak. For example, in the novel, "thoughtcrime" and "Thought Police" are Oldspeak (i.e. Standard English) terms; the Newspeak equivalents are "crimethink" and "Thinkpol", respectively.)
Neologisms that are based on Newspeak syntax but not coined by Orwell have also appeared, the most notable being groupthink (describing a group thought process where everybody is going along with everybody else and no one is thinking rationally). Frighteningly often such words are coined in political/media circles (and the Internet). For instance, doublespeak has retained its Orwellian connotations, even though he never said it.
Some Orwellian phrases have been replaced by modern equivalents; bellyfeel never caught on, despite the usefulness of a word to describe "that which is calculated to give a positive gut reaction", possibly because it sounds childish and begs to be used literally. The appearance of truthiness which contains the same meaning (that Orwell intended, not Ingsoc), and mouthfeel which does literally mean "how a piece of food feels in the diner's mouth", in the past decade have probably ended bellyfeel's chances.
Of course, unlike Lewis Carroll, Orwell was not actually trying to popularize an approach to the English Language.
- Airstrip One
- Language Equals Thought
- People's Republic of Tyranny
- Super-Fun Happy Thing of Doom: All the Ministries are an example.
- We Will Use WikiWords in the Future: we do.
- Conspiracy Tropes
- Dystopia Tropes
- Nineteen Eighty-Four
- Oppression Tropes
- Propaganda Machine
- Propaganda Piece
- TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary
Newspeak Examplestrope (contains examples of):
- Internal Retcon
- Perfectly Cromulent Word
- Strange-Syntax Speaker (Newspeak is a specific instance of this trope)
- Unusual Euphemism (Thoughtcrime, Goodsex [sex between married Party members, without enjoyment on the woman's side, also known as "Duty To The State"], Joycamps [forced labor camps]).
- Minitru (Ministry of Truth) is concerned with propaganda and historical revisionism.
- Minipax (Ministry of Peace) conducts war.
- Miniluv (Ministry of Love) instills fear in the populace.
- Miniplenty/Miniprod (Ministry of Plenty) keeps the population in a state of starvation.
- This was slightly different, as they actually published their 'War is Peace' redefinitions for the ministries, making it more Personal Dictionary. The point of Newspeak was to change English so much they wouldn't need to anymore, because people wouldn't be able to conceive of it any other way.
- The word "newspeak", or rather "nowomowa" entered the Polish language as a description of any political duckspeak by a prominent person. The novel was, of course, banned in Poland. It is seldom used today, unless referring to Communist speeches and the like. Which is odd if you think about it.
Newspeak Exampleswork — (variations of newspeak appear in the following works):
- Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Trope Maker.
- Anthony Burgess plays with this as "Worker's English" (or WE) in his novel, 1985, written as a response to Orwell.
- Ayn Rand's novella Anthem depicts a stagnant, collectivist future in which words like "I," "Me," "Mine," have been eliminated in favor of "We", "Us," and "Our." He/She has become "They." Other words have been eliminated as well, which the main character rediscovers from ancient texts. Rand's use of the basic concept even predates Orwell.
- Ironically, the singular they has a long and proud history, according to those ancient texts.
- Also, interestingly, the main protagonist is called Equality 7-2521, the numbers being a common fear of a 'loss of identity' to the collective group. But when you think about it, the transhumanist philosopher FM-2030 makes a compelling argument that any other naming convention stems from collectivism itself, as you do not choose your own name and it will have very specific parameters — your name being grounded on your gender, your ethnicity, nationality, or even just something your parents were fond of — while a numbering convention would make sure that you are the only individual with such a name.
- This Perfect Day has language changed to make words like "fight" and "hate" be considered horrible cusswords, in hopes that the concepts would become anathema, if not exactly unthinkable. After all, if you don't know what hate and violence are, you can't be happy that UNICOMP keeps you free from them, can you? On the other hand, some other words like "fuck" are considered perfectly normal.
- The society in The Giver enforced what it called "precision of language." Children are strongly reprimanded for using any kind of exaggeration or figurative language, because they lump it under "lying". (The example given is a child who says he is starving when he is only very hungry, because implying that the state would really let anyone starve is seen as extremely problematic.) They can still play pretend, though, so it doesn't hamper their thinking. Additionally, due to the Giver system, a great deal of the very concepts of the old world (starvation, war, etc.) have been or are in the process of being completely scrubbed out of the collective consciousness this way almost passively. Released to Elsewhere is a prime example: it is a Deadly Euphemism that nobody save the Giver even KNOWS is a euphemism because they have ceased to have virtually any concept of death. Which means that the authorities that order it and the doctors that perform it likely probably don't realize the full ramifications of what they are doing. In short: Newspeak so powerful and entrenched that even those that mandate it and enforce don't really recognize it for what it is. Imagine the kind of psychological tampering THAT would require.
- In Zilpha Keatley Snyder's Green-Sky Trilogy, all negative emotions are lumped under the heading of "troubled" or "unjoyfulness." (And displaying any sort of "unjoyfulness," or even feeling it in excess, is generally frowned upon.)
- In Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, the Ascians are indoctrinated to speak using only sentences from official propaganda
- Babylon 5: During President Clark's totalitarian regime, and also in a Flash Forward ("Reverse-Correct InfoSpeak" being used to describe Historical Revisionism; specifically revised bits of history are "Goodfacts" as opposed to "Realfacts").
- M*A*S*H: Hawkeye is told that he is an "Unperson" when the Army mistakenly notifies his father of his "death."
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Angel One", the aliens invite some of the Enterprise crew to an execution:
"Mistress Beata invites you to witness this morning's reaffirmation of Angel One's moral imperative."
- Parodied on The Colbert Report with the recurring segment "The Word". "Truthiness" was the first and most notable "word".
- Treespeak from BIONICLE uses a similar sort of syntax, with most terms being of the "adjective-noun" or "noun-verbing" varieties ("leaf-running", "bald-land", etc). The most common variant is to tack "ever-" on the front of words, as a form of emphasis, eg, "ever-forgotten"= "completely forgotten". "Quick-" is also commonly attached to verbs, eg "quick-think".
- The Combine Overwatch Voice from Half-Life 2 is very fond of utilizing Deadly Euphemism when dealing with unruly citizens or rebels (i.e. "Amputate" means they are given a go-for-the-kill) and all of her jargons are medical terms.
- Kingdom of Loathing features a ski slope graded as "XXX Double-Plus-Ungood".
- Wikipedia. Some argue that this notable free encyclopedia spawned enough of Newspeak to qualify as a separate dialect. More research (not to be confused with Original Research) is needed to tell whether it is so.
- TV Tropes: This very site.
- More than one would think.
- In particular, one of the goals of Newspeak was to replace colorful, evocative, varied expressions with boring, mechanical, precise ones. Many of the article title changes over the course of TV Tropes' history are disturbingly close to this ideal.
- Many, many internet terms (aka netspeak or leetspeak). For example: Blog, Vlog, LOL, longphoto, "google" and "youtube" as verbs.
- Non-English example. In Mark Rosenfelder's Constructed World of Almea there is a Constructed Language, Munkhâshi, which is a deconstruction of this trope. Just like Orwell's Newspeak, it is designed as a completely totalitarian language, to such extent that in any group of two people, one of them must speak in a humiliating manner to the other, even if they're ostensibly friends. In order for this to work though, the grammar is far more complicated than any real language is likely to be.
- The Triarian Collective from Void of the Stars used medical terms for military operations. They order their troops to "Amputate the enemy from this universe". Yikes.
- Any technical language intended to do away with ambiguity, such as scientific writing or legal jargon ("legalese") will come to resemble Newspeak to a greater or lesser extent, although the motivation behind it is quite different as it is intended for use only in certain narrowly-defined contexts and not to supplant existing language.
- Many in academia, management, elitist organisation, or really any other group that is difficult to get into will develop something like this. France, for example, has L'Académie française (The French Academy), who are the official authority on the French language. However, its recommendations carry no legal power, and even governmental authorities disregard the rulings from time to time.
- The Church of Scientology uses buttloads of New Speak.
- The most common is using acronyms to refer to everything that comes up frequently, even prominent members names. This is sometimes combined with their tendency to refer to people by their position. For example David Miscavige is referred to as C.O.B.note
- Maintenance Workers and Custodial Technicians.
- An example of an idiom and watchword made up, spread, used (up to UN Secretary General) and then thrown away and intensely displaced — all in 42 days.
- Patients in psychiatric facilities are not called 'patients.' Instead, they have been referred to (in succession) as clients, people we (the staff) serve, consumers, and now individuals. For some reason, 'patient' is considered judgmental.
- The fate of the Khmer language, after Pol Pot's 4-year run. In order to create an agricultural society, all intelligentsia was thoroughly killed, people were removed from cities and words were deleted so peasants could only think about their work. Today, Khmer has to borrow a lot from English or make do with what is available, which means a whole line can be used just to say "floater". For the record, there was no word for "free" in common Khmer anymore when they took the English equivalent.
- The Argentine journalist Pablo Mendelevich wrote the book "El relato kirchnerista en 200 expresiones" (in English, "The Kirchnerite narrative in 200 words"), detailing 200 words that the regime (It's still a democratic government, nonetheless) of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner have either created or modified. For example, in the Spanish language the word for "everybody" is "todos". The word can be used either for a group of males or a group with both males and females; and "todas" is for a group composed only of females. Kirchner made up instead the expression "todos y todas". The words "democracy" and "human rights" have been modified: "Democracy" now means "Whoever wins the elections has the legitimacy to do whatever he pleases" and "Human rights" is a great concept, but it only applies to the civil war of 1970's Argentina (which allows them to speak of human rights for domestic purposes and stay in good terms with Iran, Cuba, Venezuela or Angola). The words "Inflation" and "Corruption" are completely absent from the Kirchnerite speak and replaced by euphemisms, such as "rearrangement of prices".
- Messaging services that charge by the letter give way to a variant of this trope, due to people having to get creative with conveying their thoughts clearly using as short a statement as possible. This happened with telegrams in the past, and it happened again with its Spiritual Successor, texting, which bore the oddly appropriate name of "textspeak." Before long, though, those Morse code telegrams gave way to direct communication via telephones, and phone companies stopped charging text messages based on length and instead by quantity of messages, causing normal, uncondensed language to become the standard again.
- The German Democratic Republic went as far as redefining "people" as "those in power" to make itself look more Marxist: There was the "People's Police", the "National People's Army", and every last business was "the people's property". And that's only one example of many.
- Newspeak ran so rampant in the GDR that it even contributed to the ever-present Gallows Humor. Christmas angels being officially referred to as "winged year's end figures" was an Urban Legend, but quite a credible one at the time.
- Not to mention that the people in the GDR created their own Newspeak to at least try and avoid the omnipresent prying ears of the government. For example, "stoopware" referred to certain goods traded unofficially at regular shops because it was kept under the counter, invisible to anyone but the shopkeeper.
- Computer BILD is one of the best-selling German computer magazines, and it was the first to target at people who know next to nothing about computers. In order to try to make things easier for them, Computer BILD invented lots of new terms to make things more understandable for the totally clueless by removing too technical bits, using as little English as possible and reducing the number of word parts altogether; for example, "operating system" became "operating program" because all software was referred to as "programs" for simplicity's sake.
Needless to say this caused problems when people who had learned all they knew about computers went elsewhere, i.e. called a helpdesk, went to an online forum or had to read a software manual. They didn't understand a word themselves because everyone outside that cozy walled garden that was Computer BILD used real computer lingo, and everyone else didn't understand them because of the "gibberish" they spoke or wrote.
- Microsoft reinvented parts of the computer language in the early 90s. Directories became "folders" (to the point where nobody says "directory" anymore nowadays), daemons were introduced to DOS and Windows as "TSRs", and the Enter key was renamed "Return".