Doublespeak and Real World Examples

Summary In the essay “The World of Doublespeak,” William Lutz reveals the facts and dangers of doublespeak language which is used in all over the world. He begins with several examples of doublespeak and then, explains how to spot doublespeak. Lutz describes that doublespeak is “language that conceals or prevents thought; rather than extending thought, doublespeak limits it” (419). Doublespeak is language deliberately constructed to cover its actual meaning and it makes the bad seem good and the negative appear positive.

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Moreover, it is hard to spot and identify at the first glance; and not easy to recognize all the times. In the essay, Lutz describes the four categories of doublespeak that are euphemism, jargon, gobbledygook, and inflated. He used lots of real world examples to explain the each category. The first kind of doublespeak is the euphemism. Euphemism is a mild word or phrase which is used to make the statement more soften to avoid the harsh or unpleasant reality.

For example, while sending your condolence to someone who is grieving by saying “passed away” instead of saying “had died,” is a positive way to showing euphemism to indicate your sensitivity for those people. However, when euphemism is used to mislead or defraud, it appears to be doublespeak. For example, in 1984 the U. S. State Department is one of such who has used the phrase “unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life” instead of “killing,” which they claimed to be more precise.

Lutz argues that may be euphemism is used to avoid discussing the embarrassing situations but the real purpose behind this to mislead and to alter our perception of reality (420). The second kind of doublespeak is jargon. It is a specialized language with unique terminology which is used by the professionals (doctors, lawyer, engineers and educators) to communicate effectively and concisely within the group. On the other hand, it is doublespeak when someone from the specialized group uses jargon to speak with general people, who don’t understand it.

For example, on May 9, 1978, a National Airline 727 airplane crashed while attempting to land, three people were killed. National Airline didn’t want to disclose the airplane crashing in their annual report to its shareholder; instead they revealed in the footnote that they have $1. 7 million profit due to “involuntary conversion” of Airplane727 without disclosing any death. They knew that most of shareholders in the company don’t know official language. Such a use of jargon is doublespeak. Third kind of the doublespeak is gobbledygook or bureaucratese.

It is a language of long and complicated words which is used to confuse the audience with unfamiliar words. For example, Alan Greenspan says “It is a tricky problem to find the particular calibration in timing that would be appropriate to stem the acceleration in risk premiums created by falling incomes without prematurely aborting the decline in the inflation-generated risk premiums” in meeting of Economic club of New York in 1988 (421). The last kind of doublespeak is inflated language which is used to make common things special.

Usually this kind of doublespeak is really funny and not hard to identify. In this language, car mechanics may be called “automotive internists,” elevators operator members of the “vertical transportation cops,” and so on. This kind of language is not hard to spot. However, it may become hard to figure out when “negative patient- care outcome” means the patient died; or “rapid oxidation” means a fire in a nuclear power plant (422). In his conclusion, Lutz reinforces that doublespeak is not an accident or carelessness; instead, it tries to achieve particular objective.

It is a language to mislead, distort reality and destroy communication. Doublespeak is becoming so common in the daily life, many people failing to observe it. It has serious concerns when they notice it, but don’t show their reaction. He describes the dangers of doublespeak which sometime are more harmful. He provides question approach to recognize doublespeak. By asking “who is saying what to whom, under what conditions, with what indent? (419)” These questions can help to identify doublespeak in communication.