Reenacting Double Speak
by Jonah Begone
I just finished reading 1984 by George Orwell. It's a grim novel, but fortunately society hasn't turned out the way Mr. Orwell envisioned. That is, not yet. In some ways we're heading in the direction he predicted (maybe his timetable is off). [I have to say it - the Clinton Administration is the most Orwellian we've ever had! - Jonah] For instance, some of you Rebs embroiled in disputes about displaying Confederate flags have encountered various Thought Police, and we seem to be well on our way to adopting "double speak."
In the book, "double speak" is the expression of two contrary ideas--one a lie, the other true--being simultaneously and equally accepted by the mind. My dictionary defines it as being ambiguous, deceptive language, which is about what Orwell intended. The modern political correctness movement adopts double speak enthusiastically--the current words "s/he" (a male or a female, what's the difference?), "rainforest" (a jungle), "wetlands" (a swamp) and "the homeless" (bums and winos) are all examples of PC double speak. We in reenacting use double speak all the time but aren't aware of it. (In the book the phrases "War is Peace" and "We Are the Dead" describes reenacting and first person impressions pretty accurately.) A partial double speak list follows:
Amenities: Pieces of wood, a porta-john and straw. These are amenities as far as a road crew, a press gang or reenactors is concerned. A realtor, however, would define a Jacuzzi, air conditioning or a front porch view of the Shenandoah Valley as amenities.
Commander: A reenactor who is no position to command anyone or anything. Some of them do, however, bear a resemblance to Big Brother.
Concessionaire: My dictionary defines the root word, concede, as "to grant as a right." I didn't give them the right to sell me greasy burgers and fries at exorbitant prices.
Drill: A loathsome activity often used in some mysterious, positive way, such as in the complimentary phrase "well-drilled."
Hit: Implies being struck by something. This isn't always the case during a reeactment.
Living Historian: Someone portraying a dead person.
Minie: Implies something small, not .58 caliber.
Musketman: Implies a male. In today's legal climate "musketperson" is more accurate.
Nipple: Intended to describe the thing you put a percussion cap on. This is perplexing, unless you're Iron Man. Or a kinky musketperson.
Parking: A muddy, manure strewn field. A shopper at a mall wouldn't recognize it as parking.
Rebel: Implies rebellion. If these people were really Rebels they'd make a big statement, like refuse to pay taxes to the hated Yankee government. Any takers?
Round: Term applied to a minie "ball" which is really shaped like a suppository.
Scenario: Implies order, but normally describes utter chaos.
Shelter Half: Implies shelter. The "half" is accurate.
Soldier: A reenactment commander I knew was fond of starting speeches with the salutation "Soldiers!" I used to look up and down the ranks of tubby bearded desk jockeys and wonder who he was talking to.
Troop Pass: Implies control. In reality these things are never pulled out of the pocket all weekend.
There are some completely undeceptive, perfectly descriptive words in reenacting. "Percussion cap," "tent pole" and especially "mess" are good examples. As time goes on, however, the Big Brothers of Communication will correct these for us and provide proper double speak terms for all good comrades to use.