Food for thought
Orwell's Meaningless Words, Redux
by Jeff Deist
George Orwell's wonderful essay Politics and the English Language reads as true today as it must have in 1946, just a few years before smoking and tuberculosis would cut short his life.
His exhortations against "meaningless words," in particular, sound fresh today:
Many political words are similarly abused. The word fascism now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable’. The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.
Words like social justice, bigot, xenophobe, racist, fascist, misogynist, socialist, Dreamer, snowflake, liberal, conservative, and democracy are the meaningless words of our day. Nobody knows what they mean anymore. They are used as bullets in a form of verbal warfare, not as honest descriptions. In fact they are used quite dishonestly, with the “intent to deceive” as Orwell put it. In other words, they are used to serve the speaker’s or writer’s agenda rather than to create understanding. Political jargon is abused until it loses all value, either to describe, praise, or insult.
It's ironic that the great anti-authoritarian Orwell remained an ardent socialist, even after witnessing what Stalin brought to the former USSR. And of course 1984 is thought to be Orwell's metaphor for life under Stalin. But at least one biographer contends that Orwell didn’t see the USSR as truly socialist despite its name, and maybe that’s fair enough: consider that nobody considers the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to be democratic. But one wonders how he missed the association between collectivism and murder, between central planning and the authoritarian hellscape it produced following the Russian revolution.
In Orwell's words, "a real Socialist is one who wishes – not merely conceives it as desirable, but actively wishes – to see tyranny overthrown." He recognized Stalin as a tyrant, but failed to draw the connection between the system and its inevitable rulers.
In my mind there are very clear definitions for many of the words he cites.
BUT when talking to someone else, it is very important to discuss exactly wht they mean between each of you.
So, in this sense i agree with what he is saying, but not with his main premise that the words have no meaning.
Example, "happy".................does it mean the same to everyone, or even always the same to one person?
An interesting point, lady. I was thinking about a similar thing; 'same' and 'different'. 'Marriage' for example means one thing, the same, as a word, but at the same time, it is different to different people because different people experience it in many different ways.