Word Masters

It was no coincidence that Saul Alinsky dedicated his Rules For Radicals to Lucifer, for with the question, “Indeed, has God said?” the devil became the first perpetrator of the planted lie.

Propagandists are word masters. Words are malleable in their hands and are stretched and shaped as needed. Clear definition and meaning can be muddled with nuances or implied or declared redefinitions.

‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t—till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘

‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master—that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they’re the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

‘Would you tell me, please,’ said Alice ‘what that means?’

‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

‘When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘I always pay it extra.’

“Oh!” said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

“Ah, you should see ’em come round me of a Saturday night,” Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: “for to get their wages, you know.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice Through the Looking-Glass

“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
Joseph Goebbels

“What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around…

“If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of [political] orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs.”

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

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Humpty Dumpty and Alice illustration by John Tenniel from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There via The Wonders of Alice.
Masthead of Der Angriff from 30 January 1933.
Version of the flag of Animalism, in Animal Farm by George Orwell: Al2. GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported and Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic licenses.

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