CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

The term “langue de bois” (literally “tongue of wood”) is highly polysemic in French and has no single translation in English. The term appeared in France in the 1980s as a borrowing from the Russian, possibly via Poland at the time of the events in Gdansk and the movement started by the Solidarność trade union. How did a term used to describe the language of a totalitarian state, coined by George Orwell as “newspeak,” come to be used in so many different ways? Orwell himself provides the explanation: in a celebrated article on the language of politics, he argues that subverting the truth is not an exclusive mark of totalitarian regimes. Today, we have a form of expression known as “straight talk,” which, when it comes out of the mouths of spin doctors, could well be seen as the latest incarnation of newspeak.


  • langue de bois
  • doublespeak
  • newspeak
  • spin-doctors
  • storytelling
  • sophists
  • straight talk
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