Evisceration of meaning

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The fact that words have meaning is often greatly regretted by authoritarians, who will generally do their best to cloud, distort, or otherwise negate such meaning -- especially where it refers to concepts they don't like, i.e. pretty much anything that isn't consistent with blind obediance / followership. The language which results from such evisceration is often referred to as doublespeak, after "doublethink" and "Newspeak" in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

These eviscerations are often slow and subtle, taking many decades to be absorbed into the culture. Examples of successes include:

  • "communism" is widely believed to refer to an ideology supportive of totalitarianism, when its original conception was highly egalitarian
  • "conservative" now refers to a political position that is wasteful and destructive
  • "moral" has largely been co-opted by the religious right to refer to their value-systems alone; value-systems which oppose theirs are "immoral"


The idea of meanings being important has itself been misused by authoritarians to fight positive change. The most immediate example is the "changing the definition of marriage" argument against gay marriage, prevalent in the early 2000s. ("Gay marriage" does not change the definition of the word "marriage" at all; it merely eliminates one particular arbitrary restriction on who may access it.)