Flickr and Orwell’s 1984

Chatting on another website about the clunky brand name given to the “International Day Against Homophobia”, which does not trip off the tongue that easily – and its hideous abbreviation, IDAHO. Anyhow, I was reminded of the George Orwell novel (if it was a novel) 1984 and the principles explained at the end about how choosing short abbreviations for political names enables people to say them quickly and without lingering over the meaning.

While Idaho is indeed a word that slips off the tongue almost unnoticed when compared to the International Day Against Homophobia, it lacks any instantly obvious meaning to the bystander. It is therefore a poor brand identity.

In the novel, much is made of the conversion from the Ministry of Truth – a term which you will subconsciously linger over for a moment – to Minitrue which is so brief that you wont even notice that you said it.

I did have a bit of a shudder as I was thinking about this though – as the trend in Web 2.0 branding is to drop letters and make brand identities as easy to say as possible, while still retaining an element of the original.

The Flickr website is an excellent example of how a company has adopted the Newspeak language form to define its identity.

I wonder if the website founders are fans of George Orwell?

The relevant text from the 1984 novel is below:

The name of every organization, or body of people, or doctrine, or country, or institution, or public building, was invariably cut down into the familiar shape; that is, a single easily pronounced word with the smallest number of syllables that would preserve the original derivation.

In the Ministry of Truth, for example, the Records Department, in which Winston Smith worked, was called Recdep, the Fiction Department was called Ficdep, the Teleprogrammes Department was called Teledep, and so on.

This was not done solely with the object of saving time.

Even in the early decades of the twentieth century, telescoped words and phrases had been one of the characteristic features of political language; and it had been noticed that the tendency to use abbreviations of this kind was most marked in totalitarian countries and totalitarian organizations.

Examples were such words as Nazi, Gestapo, Comintern, Inprecorr, Agitprop. In the beginning the practice had been adopted as it were instinctively, but in Newspeak it was used with a conscious purpose.

It was perceived that in thus abbreviating a name one narrowed and subtly altered its meaning, by cutting out most of the associations that would otherwise cling to it.

The words Communist International, for instance, call up a composite picture of universal human brotherhood, red flags, barricades, Karl Marx, and the Paris Commune. The word Comintern, on the other hand, suggests merely a tightly-knit organization and a well-defined body of doctrine. It refers to something almost as easily recognized, and as limited in purpose, as a chair or a table. Comintern is a word that can be uttered almost without taking thought, whereas Communist International is a phrase over which one is obliged to linger at least momentarily.

In the same way, the associations called up by a word like Minitrue are fewer and more controllable than those called up by Ministry of Truth.

Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

Posted in Politics, Random Tagged with: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *