Orwell’s Ministry of Peace would envy the US military’s use of newspeak

I cannot imagine that anyone who has come under fire in combat would describe the sensation as friendly – no matter who is pulling the trigger. “Friendly fire” is the prime example of an institution’s attempt to sanitise language to the extent that we know what a phrase is trying to tell us, yet reflect little on its actual meaning.

The US military has mastered newspeak in a manner that would be the envy of the Ministry of Peace (Minipax) in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and it peddles the phrases – usually simple phonetically, vague semantically and inscrutable technically – with such bombastic precision that they enter the popular lexicon.

As revelations of deaths of coalition troops caused by allies surface in Iraq and Afghanistan, an issue for editors is whether the phrase “friendly fire” should have quote marks around it.

It is a military term, designed to shield the horrors of death and prevent animosity towards a war mission, argues one camp; so why should we be the agents of the phrase’s recognition? It is as if we accept its premise – that it is just one of those things that happens in war, and we should just, you know, get over it.

via Nothing friendly about it: Orwell’s Ministry of Peace would envy the US military’s use of newspeak | Mind your language | Media | guardian.co.uk.

Categories: newspeak

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