Language and Doublespeak
Animal Farm – Honors English 9
“The language we use to
communicate with one
another is like a knife. In the
hands of a careful and skilled
surgeon, a knife can work to
do great good. But in the
hands of a careless or
ignorant person, a knife can
cause great harm. Exactly as
it is with our words.”
- Unknown
• the explicit or direct meaning or set of
meanings of a word or expression;
• the dictionary meaning.
• Example:
– Snake - a limbless
reptile with a long,
scaly body
• an implied meaning of a word;
• ideas or feelings suggested by the word
(negative or positive).
• Example:
– Snake: an evil, bad,
or sneaky person
Words that have the same denotative
meaning can have much different
connotative meanings.
The connotation of a word can tell you a
lot about what the speaker of the word
means by it.
Not all words have connotative meanings.
It’s a Zoo Out There!
The English language has
appropriated the names of numerous
animals for common verbs, adjectives,
and nouns with very different
What are the denotations and the
connotations of the following?
to pig out
to rat on someone
to horse around
to crow about
Can you complete these clichés?
• Work like a …
• Swim like a …
• Sly as a …
• Wise as an …
• Busy as a …
Animals in Animal Farm
What characteristics are shown in the types
of animals used for each character?
Napoleon, Snowball, Squealer, and
Old Major the pigs
The dogs
Boxer the horse
Mollie the horse
Benjamin the donkey
Moses the raven
The Power of Language
Political language…is
designed to make lies
sound truthful and
murder respectable
and to give an
appearance of
solidarity to pure wind.
-George Orwell,
“Politics and the English Language”
• We hear and read
doublespeak every
day, but what,
exactly, is doublespeak?
• Webster's dictionary defines doublespeak with
these words: evasive, ambiguous, highflown language intended to deceive or
• Term was coined in 1974
Specific Attributes of Doublespeak (Lutz)
distorts reality
pretends to communicate
makes the bad seem good
avoids or shifts responsibility
makes the negative appear positive
creates a false verbal map of the world
limits, conceals, corrupts, and prevents thought
makes the unpleasant appear attractive/tolerable
creates absurdity between reality and what is said
or not said
Types of Doublespeak
• Euphemism
– words that attempt to soften, hide, or distort
reality by putting the thing described into a
better light, making the object it describes
sound less frightening, less threatening, or
less offensive
– The word euphemism is derived from the
Greek word euphemos, meaning “to use a
good word for an evil or unfavorable
Examples of Euphemisms
• Look at the word on your index card.
• Your index card has either a word/thing or
a euphemism of a word/thing.
• Find your match and decide which one is
the word/thing and which one is the
Types of Doublespeak
• Jargon
– specialized language used by a particular
professional, trade, or hobby group;
– specialized language;
– can be overly-complex terms used to impress
– often meaningless to outsiders
Examples of Jargon
Army Brat
Types of Doublespeak
• Gobbledygook
– many long, sophisticated
words (think "gobs of
– used in long,
complicated sentences
to confuse the audience
and hide the real issue
of the discourse
Examples of Gobbledygook
All transactions effected pursuant to this instrument shall
be effected for the account and risk and in the name of
the undersigned; and the undersigned hereby agrees to
underwrite and hold you harmless from, and to pay you
promptly on demand, any and all losses arising there
from or any debit balance due thereon.
You'll be responsible for anything you owe on your
Examples of Gobbledygook
'Twas the nocturnal segment of the period preceding
the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout our
place of residence, kinetic activity was not in
evidence among the possessors of this potential,
including that species of domestic rodent known as
Mus musculus.
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through
the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a
Types of Doublespeak
• Inflated Language
– puffed-up, important-sounding words
used to give commonplace things and
events an elevated, glowing appearance
Examples of Inflated Language
• negative patient care outcome:
– the patient died
• mental activity at the margins:
– insanity
• reutilization marketing yard:
– junkyard
Negative Impacts
• Doublespeak Corrupts Thought
– We use language to think, to make decisions,
to express our thoughts and feelings on
issues. Then, we act as a result of processing
information, which we can only do by using
language. So, the language we hear and use
in our everyday lives influences us and helps
shape our opinions to a greater degree than
we probably realize. If the language we hear
and read is corrupt and misleading, it will
corrupt and mislead our thought
Negative Impacts
• Doublespeak Destroys Communication
– Language affects how we think and act, it also
affects our ability to communicate with other
people. To discuss issues intelligently, we
must use the language that we all agree on. If
some people or groups use their own
language of doublespeak that hides the truth
and misleads the receivers of the message,
then open, honest discussion cannot take
place. In other words, we cannot truly
relate with others.
Negative Impacts
• Doublespeak Erodes Trust
– When we hear doublespeak from all sides-government, education, the advertising
industry, the media--we begin to be cynical
and distrustful toward these institutions. This
attitude of distrust then adds yet another
barrier to true, open communication.
Identify examples
of doublespeak
from the novel.
What impact does
doublespeak have
on the novel?
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