Author: David Millard Haskell

Words Lose Their Meaning at Wilfrid Laurier University

I know that references to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 have been overused in reference to the current crisis over freedom of expression at Wilfrid Laurier University. But I’m hoping my position as a Laurier professor will win sympathy from readers so that that they might indulge just one more tip of that hat to Orwell. Orwell wrote 1984 not as a standalone work but as the fictional counterpart to an essay he had written titled: “Politics and the English Language.” The piquant ideas of the essay, published in 1946, were repackaged in more accessible form two years later in the exciting narrative of his novel. Though different literary forms, the key message of both works was the same: beware any person or group that redefines words so that they no longer align with facts, common sense, and common usage. In the novel this idea is made blatantly obvious in the paradoxical mottos the totalitarian government requires its citizen to recite, such as: “War is Peace” and “Slavery is Freedom.” In the essay Orwell is …