1984 and all that

The dumbing down of language… I read the other day that the average reading age in this country is nine! Guardian readers can be proud of their 14.

Blog writers are encouraged to write short sentences using easy to read words, in short paragraphs, with lots of bold subheadings and bullet points.

No one, least of all this so-called blog writer, wants to sound pompous or wordy but there is a limit to how simplistic (immature?) one is prepared to sound, and anyway, I am completely confident that loyal marionfsblog readers, friends and family and even the youngsters, have no problem with their reading skills.

Our Parwich Bookclub (average reading age hopefully somewhat over nine and still clinging onto its Parwich title despite all but one of us having moved away) has just read/re-read George Orwell’s 1984. It’s a beautifully written and deeply disturbing book, written more as a warning about the dangers of totalitarianism of both left and right, rather than a prophecy for the future.

However, some of the warnings do seem frighteningly prescient. We talked long into the evening – and much has been written by people more intelligent and far better read than we – about its relevance today.

The thing which struck me most of all was the significance of the Appendix on language – Newspeak. Big Brother’s Party’s aim was to manipulate the language so much that any subtlety or innuendo was impossible, making it virtually impossible to disagree with the Party or even to introduce a discussion because there just weren’t the appropriate words. Eventually speakers might sound like ducks quacking, and quacking so fast that the brain was bypassed completely.

Texting, emoticons, 140 character Twitter sound bites… The use of hashtags often means it’s quite impossible to grasp what the ‘conversation’ is about at all. And finally the problem with Facebook Likes – no chance to note that you have read and absorbed a possibly deeply disturbing message which you are never going to ‘like’.

And I am not even going far into the fact that making contact on social media has virtually replaced more leisurely, considered personal letters; that so many people seem to find texting each other on their smart phones more enjoyable than actually talking, that the anonymity that social media offers means that even quite nice people can become critical and even abusive in a way that their public self would never dream of. Even Presidents of certain powerful countries can promote their views in a most discourteous manner, sounding more like an angry duck quacking than sharing the considered opinions of a wise statesman.

If I sound like a miserable old harridan, I’m not, really! So many books are published each year, and exciting literary festivals seem to proliferate. I love the fact that thanks to social media one can keep in touch with friends all over the world, and all being well one can avoid trouble and trolls. It is just that reading 1984 did make one worry about certain negative aspects of our current use and abuse of words, how instant communication in our world is ‘progressing’.

I promise my next post will be short and snappy, hopefully wildly entertaining and full of photos. Perhaps a discourse on gardens? Or even swallows… Or even my Winster Country Show prizewinning marmalade?

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Marion Fuller-Sessions

Retired and downsized, and sadly now widowed, but keeping in touch with family and friends and friends far and wide via my blog