1984 is scary. It's not that there are ghosts or demons or crazy folks running around boiler rooms with axes; I think I'm more afraid of living in a place in which the basic freedoms I currently enjoy are no longer available--or are illegal.

I haven't gotten very far in the book yet, this particular passage terrified me. Winston, the main character, is speaking to a co-worker, Syme, who is rewriting the dictionary according to Big Brother's standards. Here's what Syme has to say about that:

You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We're destroying words--scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. We're cutting the language down to the bone. ... It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words. Of course the great wastage is in the verbs and adjectives, but there are hundreds of nouns that can be got rid of as well.

Did you get goosebumps?

This will probably come as no surprise to you, but I LOVE WORDS. I love them in all their expressive glory; I love learning them, I love spelling them, I love saying them, I love writing them. Without them, I would have so much going on inside my head that I believe I would actually turn myself insane. My brain would be so heavy with thoughts that it would turn into soup and trickle out my ears.

1984 deals not only with this limitation of vocabulary, but also with the idea that communication itself carries unknown dangers. There is even a Thought Police squad (which, let me tell you, would arrest me within ONE MINUTE). Everything you say and do is scrutinized from your facial expression to how loudly you should during the Two Minutes Hate (which is daily televised propaganda directed at the Enemy).

I know that there are a lot of people who would say that we as a society are slowly turning into the kind of place described in 1984, and I can see some--very slight--similarites. However, I thank God that I am still allowed to freely express myself with any number of words, in any combination, that I choose. When the Oxford English Dictionary starts cutting words instead of adding them, be afraid. Be very afraid.


Dreamy said...

Mei, Mini-speak was one of the most chilling things about 1984 for me. That book is still one of my most recommended sci-fi novels to non-sci-fi friends. I have a great love of words too and the idea of cutting down words to the point that they do in 1984 is grotesque to say the least!! Angela

Mei said...

The thing is, I can totally see how it could happen. We live in an age when people (well, teenagers mostly) think that LOL and L8R are legitimate words; they have no appreciation for language at all. I'm astonished at the number of words they DON'T know, which is why I always push vocabulary so hard. But they are exactly the type who would think that "ungood" is a satisfactory substitute for any word that is the opposite of "good."


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