CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

The French expression “langue de bois ” — literally “wooden language” but often referred to as “doublespeak” in English—originated in Eastern Europe. In its current usage in France, however, it has come to cover a range of meanings and refers to any kind of stereotyped discourse, serving as a mere code-word for public speaking, and is often confused with “politically correct.” In Eastern Europe, which has seen totalitarianism of two kinds, this semantic weakening is regarded with dismay. In these countries, the expression has lost none of its weight of meaning, and its offhand use in the West is perceived as equating with a lack of understanding and even ignorance of what it really means. To those who fought against it, there is a difference not only in degree but actually in nature between a living language and the “wooden language” of officialdom. This is what we would like to illustrate, briefly, first through the strength of the protests against it and secondly by attempting to shed some light on what the protest was really about, mainly through the example of Poland.


  • doublespeak
  • subversion of language
  • freedom of thought
  • dissidence
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