George Orwell, in his prophetic 1947 novel "1984," popularized the phrase "double-speak."
In his book, the government of his fictional land called everything by a pleasant-sounding, imprecise and often deliberately dishonest name.
Which brings me to a couple of nonfictional, current-day governmental examples of what certainly looks like double-speak.
The easiset place to begin is President George W. Bush's environmental policy, which he cleverly labeled "Clear Skies."
If it's as hard for you to understand how slackening rules against industrial pollution will benefit the environment as it is for me, don't be dismayed.
It's hard for the experts, too.
According to the Washington Post, the National Academy of Sciences - a body made up of all those boys and girls too smart to hang around with me in high school - has just released a preliminary report that boldly states Bush's Clear Skies plan will reduce air pollution less than the current Clean Air Act rules mandate.
In other words, Clear Skies doesn't actually mean clear skies; it means savings for industrialists at the expense of clear skies.
I've spoken before about Bush's wildly undocumented claims that Social Security is "on the road to bankruptcy," a statement the president repeated in his Jan. 15 radio address to the country.
But we aren't the only ones puzzled by Bush's claims.
Bernard Wasow, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, was quoted in the Washington Post, speaking about the president's unfounded claims.
He spoke clearly and succinctly: "The Social Security tax collects 12.3 percent of wages each year. That money is going to be available to pay benefits.... That's not bankrupt."
There are two sides to many issues. But there are also, at times, simple facts, which can be written about simply. To say things that are not true, and to mislabel policies to mislead folks into thinking, for example, that skies will clear up when they will darken, is many things. But first and foremost it is a poor use of our wonderful, flexible, tough-to-manage English language.
Who profits from these two examples?
Coal-plant operators who don't wish to comply with environmental rules if it threatens profits in the first case; financial planners and advisors who will profit from a retooling and partial privatizing of Social Security.
Profits for the same few, as always, at the expense of the many.[[In-content Ad]]