Taking back words

Calvin Froedge
5 min readNov 11, 2018


Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely.

— Orwell

Over the last couple of years, there has been a disturbing trend in which the meaning of many words have changed. In fact, these words have ceased being instruments with which a sentence is constructed, and instead have become weapons that convey emotion and hatred rather than precise meanings.

In a 1946 essay, George Orwell argued that the decline of the English language through misuse, was both a cause and effect of cultural, economic, and political decay. Orwell argued that as our language became more slovenly, so did our thoughts, which in turn produced even poorer language and yet more bad ideas.

Orwell, a staunch critic of Marxist ideas, has proven himself a prophet many times over, and I believe we are seeing in modern political ideas exactly what Orwell warned of — lazy use of language creating a negative loop in which the state of discourse degrades with increasing rapidity.

Though I am no fan of Republicans in general, and in fact believe political parties should be abolished and campaign fundraising outlawed, I find the most dangerous uses of modern language perpetrated by those who tend to vote for Democrats.

I’ll start with a small list of “hijacked” words:

  • liberal
  • progressive
  • justice
  • equality
  • safe
  • diversity

These words are among the many that have become the charged marching orders of a crazed mob, losing their original meaning along the way. Liberal has become a monstrous grouping of “approved” ideas and people, a rather far cry from its origins in liberty. When universities came up with the name liberal arts, it was because they wanted to describe an educational framework which would provide a free person with the broad spectrum of ideas and knowledge necessary to be a free thinking person. How ironic that a modern liberal is someone who is anything but free thinking. Of course there were other meanings as well, synonymous with such words as permissive, free, generous, and magnanimous. You may have liberally put salt in your soup, or have been libertarian in your attitude towards immigration. The word was hijacked by inconspicuous and power hungry charlatans preying on those of weak of mind, and over time, liberal became a word which might describe anything from a person who votes for Nancy Pelosi, to someone who thinks tweeting “cancel white people” is perfectly justified. The word lost its precision of meaning and thus an idea was removed from the political discourse.

Progressive, another hijacked word, is now a badge of honor worn by those who espouse a loose set of radical identity focused politics, rather than an adjective that means a continuation of progress. A small cabal of Marxist radicals hijacked the word so they could group the masses, angry about their condition but not quite sure how to articulate why, under words with positive connotations.

Justice, equality, and safe have all undergone their own perversions as well. Justice, according to these rogues, means an inconsistent application of rewards and punishments to favored identity groups rather than a resolution of a conflict between one or more parties by a neutral arbiter by means of a consistent and fair interpretation of codified or natural law. Equality now refers to equal outcomes rather than equal opportunities and treatment under the law, and safe refers to not being exposed to ideas critical of the establishment rather than physical security. Diversity now describes specific groups of people being in positions of economic or cultural advantage rather than describing a rich variety of organisms in an ecosystem, or a multitude of ideas.

Believe me, they, whoever they are, knew what they were doing from the beginning and the smartest of these word thieves know what they are doing now. I know why they did it — they wanted power. They wanted to change the world. Along the way they may have even made some people’s lives better. But over time, they have shifted the entire political conversation, using these words and others as ideological weapons, to questions of identity rather than quality. Ideas are now being judged on the basis of whose they are, rather than what they are. Martin Luther King Jr., in his most famous speech, asked that his children be judged by the content of their characters rather than the color of their skin.

By allowing the meaning of so many important words to be defiled and corrupted by nefarious soul suckers, we have ushered in an era of intellectual and cultural decay in our society not seen since the dark ages. Instead of Dr. King’s dream, we live in a dystopian nightmare in which words don’t mean what they used to, and the only thing that matters to a large group of people is the labels applied to them. Our individual cultural identities have become statements about our merit rather than inconsequential facts. We live in a world where War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength. Speech is censored, unpopular ideas are banned. Large platforms and tech companies have taken on the role of executioner, attacking anyone who dares step outside the spectrum of approved thought.

So what can be done? Even the ever pessimistic Orwell was optimistic that the degradation of language could be reversed. To become a proud, strong, and free people, we must first think, speak, and write as such. We must use the words that evil men have stolen in their correct way. We must celebrate the liberal distribution of gainful employment opportunities to homeless populations. We must support an educational system where justice is ensured by an equal evaluation of each student’s merits, regardless of race, color, and creed. We ask our fellow citizens to allow each other a platform for the transmission of ideas where they are safe from physical violence from those who don’t like those ideas. We all become progressives, because we believe that diversity of thought will bring positive and essential progress to all of us.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style.

- Orwell

Go forth and take back your words. I believe in you.



Calvin Froedge

Software developer, investor, energy markets analyst.