Questions on Meaning Essay

QUESTIONS ON MEANING 1. Lutz’s thesis might be stated briefly as follows: The four kinds of doublespeak all include language “that avoids or shifts responsibility, language that is at variance with its real or purported meaning” (the quotation is from par. 2). The thesis accumulates over paragraphs 2–3, with the addition of the intention to classify in paragraph 5. 2. Paragraph 4 offers the following questions: “Who is saying what to whom, under what conditions and circumstances, with what intent, and Lutz / The World of Doublespeak 85

Kennedy 10/e ’09 (i-151) 12/17/07 8:48 AM Page 85with what results? ” These questions locate the motivation for dishonesty that would indicate doublespeak. 3. The greatest danger is that, as in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, doublespeak will lead to the “control of reality through language” (par. 23). Doublespeak “alter[s] our perception of reality and corrupt[s] our thinking. . . . [It] breeds suspicion, cynicism, distrust, and, ultimately, hostility” (22). It can “infect and eventually destroy the function of language” (23). . Lutz clearly assumes an educated reader, someone able to perceive the fundamental dishonesty in his examples. At the same time, his careful classification, scores of examples, and extensive discussion of the dangers indicate that he believes his reader probably is not sensitive to doublespeak and needs help to recognize it. QUESTIONS ON WRITING STRATEGY 1. Lutz’s principle of classification is the intention of doublespeakers. Those who use euphemisms are trying to “mislead or deceive” (par. 7) with inoffensive words.

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Those who use jargon seek to give their words “an air of profundity, authority, and prestige” (10). Those who use gobbledygook or bureaucratese are bent on “overwhelming the audience with words” (13). And those who use inflated language seek “to make the ordinary seem extraordinary; . . . to make the simple seem complex” (17). 2. Lutz begins by offering a definition of the category. Then he offers examples of euphemisms used to spare others’ feelings or to avoid language regarded as taboo — euphemisms he finds acceptable.

Finally, he contrasts these kinds of euphemism with three examples of euphemism used by government agencies to “mislead or deceive” — in which case it becomes doublespeak. 3. Greenspan’s second comment is surprising because he acknowledges that he is deliberately unclear. With the quotation, Lutz shows that doublespeak is intentional. 4. Many of Lutz’s examples are dated, and some students may at first think that doublespeak is an old, not a current, problem.

The first writing suggestion, asking students to find current examples of their own, should help them see that doublespeak is no less a problem now than it was two decades ago. 5. Definition appears mainly in paragraphs 2 and 3 and in the explanations of each kind of doublespeak (pars. 5, 7, 9–10, 13, 17). Cause and effect also figures in the explanation of categories, as Lutz gives the intentions of doublespeakers, but mainly it develops the last section of the essay (20–23). The definition, of course, clarifies Lutz’s subject and his categories. The cause and effect shows what is at stake with this dishonest language.

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