Making references to George Orwell’s 1984 has almost become cliché. Heck, even pointing out how cliché it is has become cliché. It’s just that between big government and Big Tech trying to control our lives and censor what we say, the comparisons are plentiful.
In 1984, the Newspeak dictionary was the compendium of Newspeak, the language used by Oceania. It is the only language that actually gets smaller because as words are limited, the potential to commit thoughtcrime, or thoughts not approved by the Party, is continually reduced. Thus, at some point, the language becomes small enough that thoughtcrime is impossible.
Sadly, like other aspects of Orwell’s novel, the Newspeak dictionary is no longer fictional.
Let me explain.
Recently, I subscribed to Grammarly Premium to help catch errors in my writing—of which there can be a lot. Upon upgrading my account, I learned that one of the features offered in the Grammarly Premium subscription was that the software would check your writing to provide suggestions for more “inclusive” language.
I admit, I chuckled, anxiously awaiting the software to self-destruct while analyzing my writing.
Grammarly announced last year that it would start incorporating suggestions for more inclusive language. When exactly? If you guessed “during Pride month,” you’re right! Grammarly explained the new functionality in a blog post.
“Sometimes, in the learning process, we may use language that we don’t realize is offensive, including words that could be categorized as hate speech or slurs toward the LGBTQIA+ community,” the blog post reads. “These are words that have not been reclaimed by the community and are almost always inappropriate. Grammarly will point out several of these words and suggest that you remove them from your work.”
One such target of Grammarly’s inclusivity filters is “outdated terminology.”
Understanding one another is a continual, evolving process—the words that we use to describe the LGBTQIA+ community now are not the same as they were twenty or even five years ago. However, if we’re not in the LGBTQIA+ community, or if we don’t have many loved ones who identify with that community, we may not always have the most up-to-date knowledge.
Grammarly has identified some outdated terms. If you use them in your text, the Grammarly writing assistant will flag them and suggest an updated replacement—for example, to replace the outdated term transgendered with transgender—which can help you change that language in the future.
I’ve written about transgender issues since upgrading Grammarly, and so far, it hasn’t flagged anything, even when I don’t use some nutcase’s preferred pronouns. I’m disappointed. Honestly.
But, I finally got the software to flag me for something, and yet, it wasn’t for using “outdated terminology” associated with the LGBTyadayada community. Nope. Grammarly decided that my use of the term “Wuhan virus” wasn’t inclusive and suggested alternatives.
— Matt Margolis (@mattmargolis) July 27, 2021
Rest assured, I didn’t “correct” my use of the term “Wuhan virus” in my article. But, the most interesting thing about this is that Grammarly’s efforts to “improve inclusivity” aren’t limited to just words deemed “outdated terminology” according to the LGBTyadayada community.
Last year, after the sensitivity police decided that linking diseases with their place of origin was racist, The Federalist compiled 17 diseases named after places or people. Here’s the list:
- West Nile Virus
- Guinea Worm
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
- Lyme Disease
- Ross River Fever
- Omsk Hemorrhagic Fever
- Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome
- Valley Fever
- Marburg Virus Disease
- Zika Fever
- Japanese Encephalitis
- German Measles
- Spanish Flu
- Lassa Fever
- Legionnaire’s Disease
Want to guess how many of these diseases Grammarly flagged for being insensitive or not inclusive? If you guessed none of them, you’d be correct! But, calling COVID-19 “the Wuhan virus” is off-limits.
Hmm, what about the UK variant (a.k.a. the Alpha variant) of COVID? Or the India variant (aka the Delta variant)? Grammarly has no problem with those, either. I wonder why. Why have the language masters at Grammarly decided that the “Wuhan virus” is insensitive but “UK variant,” “India variant,” and any of the other aforementioned diseases are not offensive in any way?
The Newspeak dictionary was full of contradictions, too.
Sadly, Grammarly is hardly breaking new ground here with Orwellian “fixes” to language.
Last summer, Mirriam-Webster updated the definition of racism to include “systemic racism.”
Last October, the AP Stylebook suggested not using the word “riot” to describe the BLM riots. They also changed the definition of “sexual preference” in order to justify an attack on Amy Coney Barrett.
Earlier this year, Merriam-Webster updated its second definition of racial “color-blindness” so that you can still be racist if you treat all people the same regardless of race. Ain’t that a hoot!
So, yes, the woke gatekeepers of language are constantly trying to control us by changing language: altering definitions, limiting what words we use, and deciding what is and isn’t appropriate. The big question is, how long will it be before our language truly makes it impossible to think for ourselves?
Related: ‘War Is Peace,’ CNN Goes Full Orwell