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What is Duckspeak in 1984?

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sjm-88 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 24, 2010 at 10:09 PM via web

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What is Duckspeak in 1984?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 24, 2010 at 10:19 PM (Answer #1)

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You can find the answer to this in Chapter 5.  Syme tells Winston about this idea when he is talking about the Newspeak dictionary he is working on.  It is also mentioned in the appendix at the end of the book.

This word means "to quack like a duck."  The reason that we hear about this word is that it does not really have a set meaning -- it can be good or it can be bad.  If you say it about someone you approve of, it's good, otherwise, it's bad.

This is important (according to the appendix) because it shows how Newspeak is supposed to reduce the number of words that people can use.  The hope is that eventually the Party will reduce the amount of thinking that people do by reducing the number of words that are available for use.

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renkins44 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted August 25, 2010 at 9:41 AM (Answer #2)

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The goal of most societies should be to increase their vocabulary, both as individuals and as a species, as time passes. However, in 1984 the government seeks to destroy more and more words with each new dictionary published. Syme clarifies the purpose of destroying the language when he says, "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" (51).

"Duckspeak" is a direct example of the language destruction. Syme further goes to note that duckspeak means, "to quack like a duck. It is one of those interesting words that has two contradictory meanings. Applied to an opponent, it is abuse; applied to someone you agree with, it is praise" (55). Because the word can mean whatever its user desires, it essentially has no meaning. In a math sense, it's like combining a positive 1 and a negative 1; the answer is zero.

The point is dumb-down the citizens of Oceania. It is easier for a government to control theircitizens, to lie and manipulate them, if they articulate what is happening to them. Moreover, it makes it easier for the government to use "doublespeak," the process of saying something existed at one moment, then saying it never existed at the next moment, then (still!) saying it has existed and always has. The process goes on indefinitely.

Enotes.com summarizes the succinctly with following passage from their summary and analysis of chapters four and five:

"At work Winston sees his friend Comrade Syme, and over a dull, regulation lunch they discuss Syme’s current project, the eleventh edition of the Newspeak dictionary. Syme is proud of his work streamlining the language; of particular interest is the destruction of verbs and adjectives. The new dictionary will simplify synonyms and eliminate antonyms altogether. Syme offers “ungood” as an example of how Newspeak will be able to narrow the range of thought by eliminating the finer shades of distinction within the language. Thoughtcrime will become impossible, he predicts, for there will be no words to express it."

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