Duckspeak

Duckspeak is a Newspeak term meaning literally to quack like a duck or to speak without thinking. Duckspeak can be either good or “ungood” (bad), depending on who is speaking, and whether what they are saying is in following with the ideals of Big Brother. To speak rubbish and lies may be ungood, but to speak rubbish and lies for the good of “The Party” may be good.

In the appendix to 1984, Orwell explains: “Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all.”

I am sitting here in my local coffee shop, and within ear range of a perfectionist of the art of Duckspeak. She is sitting there expounding a constant stream of utter drivel with the only punctuation to break up the flow being the use of “yeah” and “yuhknow”.

When George Orwell predicted the rise of Duckspeak he was thinking more of totalitarian political control of the thought process. To speak like a duck was actually a conscious effort on the part of the speaker to disconnect from thinking and be able to spout out whatever is needed by the party and it actually takes effort to do that. You have to mentally “flick a switch” into duckmode and have the skill to speak constantly without repetition and always make “sense” in what you are saying. Anyone who has watched the comedy quiz, Just A Minute where the contestants have to talk “for just a minute” on a given subject, “without repetition, hesitation or deviation” will appreciate how difficult a skill it actually is.

I doubt he would ever have thought that we would end up with people so incredibly able to quack like a duck but also have utterly nothing to say either.

It is Estuary English at its finest, and I say that without contradiction – for this truly is the horror that faces the English language as we care less for what is said and more for simply being heard. Quantity has overcome quality.

She has got up as I write this and is preparing to leave and throughout is still quacking away like her life depended on it.

It is oddly fascinating to watch – if also equally depressing.

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