The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon, Destruction of words thinking and language, Mixture of “1984” and Obama world, Highly contagious word flu doublespeak or Obama speak, Big brother is watching your mental demise
“STEPHANOPOULOS: That may be, but it’s still a tax increase.
OBAMA: No. That’s not true, George. The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. “…2009 interview
“When an opponent declares, “I will not come over to your side,” I calmly say, “Your child belongs to us already… What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.”…Adolf Hitler
“We control life, Winston, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what we do and will turn against us. But we create human nature. Men are infinitely malleable.”...George Orwell, “1984″
I watched DG Martin interview Alena Graedon on North Carolina Bookwatch Friday night. Graedon is the author of “The Word Exchange” a novel about life in the near future in NY City after the death of print with uber destruction and manipulation of words.
Very soon I was reminded of two things. “1984” by George Orwell and the fact that the scenario presented as near future appeared too much like our current status quo.
I have toyed with the idea of writing a “1984” part 2, the rest of the story. I.E. , mostly regurgitating today’s news from the perspective of Winston or his descendant. Perhaps I will.
I am not a huge novel reader but I may pick this one up. Graedon has obviously observed where word usurpation is heading but has she connected the dots as Orwell did. I would like to know.
From the Star News Online July 25, 2014.
“Set in a near-future New York City, ”The Word Exchange” is dated after the much-ballyhooed “death of print.” Newspapers, magazines, bookstores and libraries are all a thing of the past. (OH NOOOOOO!) So, apparently, is email; these days, everyone either texts or teleconferences.
Everyone spends their time hunched over their electronic devices called Memes, which are way beyond iPads or tablets. Memes don’t just message. They order takeout before you realize you’re hungry; they call a cab before you know you want to go.
The heroine, Anana, is the daughter of a literary troglodyte who’s devoting himself to putting out the last-ever print edition of an English-language dictionary. One day, Anana’s dad vanishes, leaving only a sheet of paper in his handwriting, marked only “ALICE” — a code word that he’s gone down the rabbit hole. Something bad has happened.”
From the NY Times FromMay 2, 2014.
“In Alena Graedon’s first novel, “The Word Exchange,” a nervy, nerdy dystopic thriller set in New York City in the very near future, the risk of “suddenly becoming stupid” is not notional, it’s actual. A highly contagious, sometimes fatal virus called “word flu” has leapt from computers to their users, corrupting not only written language but also spoken words with gibberish and scaring the “pask” out of infected netizens.
If you’ve ever received an indecipherable text message, you know the frustration of having language utterly fail to communicate. Now imagine that this nonsense issues from your own lips. Luckily, not everyone is equally vulnerable to the virus. Polyglots and brainy throwbacks who read books on paper and keep journals have some resistance, but the cyber-reliant legions who read only “limns” on screens (i.e., most people) make easy targets.
In Graedon’s tomorrow-world, the web has invaded human life even more aggressively than it has today. Hand-held devices called “Memes” are so attuned to owners’ habits and tastes that they have nearly psychic powers (deciding what their hosts should order at restaurants, hailing a cab unbidden), and they discreetly flash the definitions of “obscure” words whose precise meanings their under-read owners have forgotten, like “ambivalent” and “cynical.” The newest variety of Meme, the Nautilus, doesn’t even need a screen. It sticks to the skin like a glinting silver leech, beaming digital information directly into the user’s neural pathways and mining them for data.
For a while, the afflicted don’t realize they’re sick. Accustomed to inexact language, they don’t notice when opportunistic cyberfiends from the evil consortium Synchronic, Inc., buy up the rights to every word in the dictionary and start transmitting phony neologisms into Memes, minds and mouths. What’s in it for Synchronic? Well, the linguistic profiteers (correctly) anticipate that the human compulsion to understand and to be understood is so overpowering that once incomprehensible coinages (like “vzung” “eezow,” “jeedu” and “naypek,” to name a few) start popping up on their devices and on their tongues, Meme users will pay 25 cents per word to have the nonsense-ologisms instantaneously defined. By monetizing the impulse to verbal laziness, the speculators stand to make billions. Or rather they do until their client base succumbs to the unforeseen babble pandemic. Who can rescue the world from this plague of idiocy?”
From “1984” by George Orwell.
“He had brightened up immediately at the mention of Newspeak. He pushed his pannikin aside, took up his hunk of bread in one delicate hand and his cheese in the other, and leaned across the table so as to be able to speak without shouting.
‘The Eleventh Edition is the definitive edition,’ he said. ‘We’re getting the language into its final shape — the shape it’s going to have when nobody speaks anything else. When we’ve finished with it, people like you will have to learn it all over again. 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. The Eleventh Edition won’t contain a single word that will become obsolete before the year 2050.’
He bit hungrily into his bread and swallowed a couple of mouthfuls, then continued speaking, with a sort of pedant’s passion. His thin dark face had become animated, his eyes had lost their mocking expression and grown almost dreamy.
‘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. It isn’t only the synonyms; there are also the antonyms. After all, what justification is there for a word which is simply the opposite of some other word? 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 vague useless words like “excellent” and “splendid” and all the rest of them? “Plusgood” covers the meaning, or “doubleplusgood” if you want something stronger still. Of course we use those forms already. but in the final version of Newspeak there’ll be nothing else. In the end the whole notion of goodness and badness will be covered by only six words — in reality, only one word. Don’t you see the beauty of that, Winston? It was B.B.’s idea originally, of course,’ he added as an afterthought.
A sort of vapid eagerness flitted across Winston’s face at the mention of Big Brother. Nevertheless Syme immediately detected a certain lack of enthusiasm.
‘You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,’ he said almost sadly. ‘Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak. I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in The Times occasionally. They’re good enough, but they’re translations. In your heart you’d prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?’
Winston did know that, of course. He smiled, sympathetically he hoped, not trusting himself to speak. Syme bit off another fragment of the dark-coloured bread, chewed it briefly, and went on:
‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?'”