No More Conventional Antonyms
One of the innovations of Newspeak, the version of English used by the totalitarian government in Orwell’s dystopic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, was the elimination of antonyms. A writer at the Oxford Dictionaries site explains:
By choosing which words the populace can use, The Party can choose to shift thought in a more positive or negative direction to suit their needs; ungood, for example, makes the populace feel less negative than bad would…
In 2015, some of the populace seem to be choosing to add un- to adjectives like good and rich rather than look for conventional antonyms:
The Rich Are Less Ethical Than the Unrich
[A Resort] Like Palm Springs, only for unrich people
The government is clearly pandering to the masses, i.e. the unrich people.
Few fanfic writers actually write good stories. Some are unrealistic, unplanned, ungood stories.
I was all set to move to Erdington until last night [when] I found some ungood stories about the area I will be living in.
In the end, the good outweighed the ungood and I’m happy I chose this place.
I’ll be traveling light when it comes time for me to cross, when I cross…
This unwide road… (song lyrics) .
Abercrombie & Fitch chief executive Mike Jeffries [issued] a half-baked apology for his incendiary comments on why the unthin, the unyoung and the unbeautiful don’t belong in A&F clothes.
As a stylistic device, words like unthin and unbeautiful can be used to humorous effect. Adding un- to words in an effort to obscure meaning or avoid thought, on the other hand, is not an option for writers who wish to be taken seriously.
Want to improve your English in five minutes a day? Get a subscription and start receiving our writing tips and exercises daily!
Keep learning! Browse the Style category, check our popular posts, or choose a related post below:
Stop making those embarrassing mistakes! Subscribe to Daily Writing Tips today!
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!