MyNews24 is a user-generated section of The stories here come from users.

Robert Andrew
Comments: 0
Article views: 54
Latest Badges:

View all Robert Andrew's badges.


31 December 2013, 08:50

Doublespeak is a term, thought to have first been coined by George Orwell, which deliberately distorts the meaning of words. The prime purpose of the practice of doublespeak is to make the truth sound more palatable by euphemism, distortion, ambiguity or obfuscation.

Doublespeak is language which pretends to communicate but doesn't. It is language which makes the bad seem good, the negative seem positive, the unpleasant seem attractive, or at least tolerable. It is language which avoids or denies responsibility; language which is at variance with its real or purported meaning. It is language which conceals or prevents thought.

Doublespeak was very popular with the apartheid regime, with terms like ‘good neighbourliness’, ‘separate development’, ‘plural society’, ‘homelands’ being used to describe the implementation of the apartheid system.  The words ‘terrorist’, ‘communist’ and ‘traitor’ were also forms of doublespeak to denote anyone who protested against the apartheid policies. There were also a whole host of government and military agencies whose doublespeak names did not truthfully indicate what their true function was, like BOSS (The Bureau for State Security), CCB (Civil Cooperation Bureau), Project Coast (chemical and biological warfare) and Project Duel (elimination of SWAPO prisoners of war), all of whose main functions were to disrupt anti-apartheid activities in South Africa and abroad by detaining or assassinating oppositional leaders and destroying ANC facilities.          

The USA Department of Defence has been well known for its use of doublespeak with euphemisms like ‘servicing the target’ (bombing), ‘force packages’ (warplanes), ‘rendition’ (the practice of sending a foreign criminal or terrorist suspect covertly to be interrogated in a country with less rigorous regulations for the humane treatment of prisoners) and ‘waterboarding’ (a form of torture in which water is poured over a cloth covering the prisoner’s face and breathing passages). Extreme forms of torture are called ‘enhanced interrogation’. Military drones are called ‘unmanned aerial vehicle predator and reapers’. George W. Bush’s rush to attack Iraq after 9/11 was termed the ‘war on terrorism’, without any reference to the groups behind the WTC attacks being associated with Iraq. At this time, Bush reminded the soldiers and their families that the war in Iraq is “really about peace." (President George W. Bush, April 2003)

Our present South Africa government too has its very full share of doublespeak; in fact it is a feature of many government officials in their attempt to explain private expenditure, unlisted gifts and, dare we say it, bribes and corruption. Our former Communications Minister was a great exponent of doublespeak. Some examples: damage to a rented car amounting to R425 000 was written off because “nobody could be held responsible”, R325 000 for recruitment drives went down the drain because of “organisational realignment” and R1, 27 million on fraudulent international calls was lost as the “‘perpetrators could not be identified”[1].

There are wonderful examples of doublespeak in business and commerce, with some examples being “staff are our greatest assets” (truth: they’re the easiest cost to eliminate), “downsizing” or “re-engineering” (truth: laying off staff), “difficult exercise in labour relations” (truth: strikes), company ‘Vision and Mission Statements” (truth: looks good in the entrance foyer and impresses  clients), “we need a new paradigm” (truth: we actually don’t know what to do),  a “temporary cash flow” (truth: our cost management is poor),  “nonperforming assets” or “nonperforming credits” which are “rolled over” or “rescheduled” (truth: bad loans or bad debts) and “meaningful downturn in aggregate output” (truth: recession).

Enhanced language proficiency, greater general knowledge and critical thinking are probably the best ways to learn how to resist doublespeak. In many cases, we don’t know enough about the subject so are not able to recognise that the language being used is concealing, distorting or misleading the reality. There seems also to be a need to be aware of the peculiar ‘vulnerability’ of the linguistics of the English language.  Linguistically, words are not things, but verbal tokens or signs of things that should be related back to the things that they stand for so that they can be verified. Being sceptical about what is being spoken about, especially by politicians, can reveal if the language is being abused and, if so, we should not hesitate to question the speaker to try and reveal the reality.

[1]   IOL News:

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Narian Chengiah Naidoo
A Civilized Society

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, "Taxes are what we pay for a civilized society." Those words carry value and meaning only if "civilized" is understood as being good, happy and beneficial to all citizens. Read more...

0 comments 30 views
Submitted by
Rodney Bevan
SA under Zuma

Jacob Zuma, along with a handful of cronies has single handedly almost destroyed the country, its people and its economy. Read more...

21 comments 1171 views
Submitted by
The Fox 5366
Illegal Miners: Voiceless Prostit...

There's been a lot said about legalising prostitution so that prostitutes can be protected, receive healthcare and not be victimised. Read more...

9 comments 296 views
Submitted by
siphokuhle dludla
The real South Africa today

Truth be told, South Africa is a country with palpable inequalities, which is a fact, it is a country where poverty continues to lacerate a huge number of our population particularly black people. Read more...

11 comments 604 views
Submitted by
The ANC constitution does not off...

The official ANC constitution does not forbid or punish corruption. The term corruption is not listed or defined as a key term in the latest version of the official constitution of the ANC. Read more...

4 comments 337 views
Submitted by
LeboDang Macman
Why using race as a proxy doesnt ...

I am not an academic nor do I profess to be, so everything I write will be based purely on experience. Read more...

10 comments 498 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25



E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

Digital Media & Marketing Association
© 2014 All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.