The Deterioration of Language

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words… After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other words? A word contains its opposite in itself. Take ‘good’ for instance. If you have a word like ‘good,’ what need is there for a word like ‘bad’? ‘Ungood’ will do just as well—better, because it’s an exact opposite, which the other is not. Or again, if you want a stronger version of ‘good,’ what sense is there in having a whole string of useless words like ‘excellent’ and ‘splendid’ and all the rest of them? ‘Plusgood’ covers the meaning, or ‘doubleplusgood’ if you want something stronger still…in the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words—in reality, only one word.”
~George Orwell, 1984

I thought of the above quotation as I flipped through my little brother’s elementary school workbook containing this definition of literature: fiction vs. nonfiction. I wondered what the writer had been thinking to use fiction and non-fiction as a realistic comparison rather than fact and fiction or truth and falsehood.

It is worth noting that we are taught in school that it is expected to use words that are not as precise as they should be. How very different are the words ‘ungood’ and ‘bad’ in meaning; how much more different are ‘nonfiction’ and ‘truth’. When one walks into a classroom today, “truth” is a foreign idea while it is the very thing that Jesus said sets us free and must be stood for.

This is a warning: let us never water down the importance of strength in the words we use. What would the world be like if the word ‘love’ is replaced with ‘unhate’?

  • http://www.jeubfamily.com Chris & Wendy

    This is most interesting when you compare your post with Mongoose’s comment here. Seems he’s already on the prowl.

  • http://www.funinfundamental.com Lucky Martinez

    Sometimes great fiction can be a learning lesson for all of us. Jesus often spoke in parables – telling stories so that folks would gather around and listen. At least I think that the parables were little stories? I might be wrong, maybe they are all real events. I’m still learning as I go, I’m new to all of this. But I do think that stories can be a great illustration of good and bad behaviors and experiences.

  • APhilosopher

    I have a question…

    Does every ‘nonfiction’ book contain truth? Certainly, not. Many nonfiction books contain errors and false clams. Calling them ‘truth books’ would be misleading.

    What about fact books? Many nonfiction books are not concerned with the listing of facts but with the examination of theories and interpretations. What would you call a book that presented three different ways to interpret the second amendment? A ‘theory’ book? The phrase ‘fact book’ ultimately sounds more like a text book than anything else.

    I think that the point you are trying to make is that language should be accurate. Well perhaps ‘nonfiction’ is the only word that can accurately convey its meaning.