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Taking a line through suicidal, genocidal and dozens of words of similar form, we know this must mean the killing of something. The Greek logos can mean a word, as in logophile, a lover of words, but logocidal instead borrows its associated abstract senses of discourse and reason.

Logocidal refers to the destruction or perversion of meaning, something deadly to reason and communication. Newspeak in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was a logocidal creation since it was designed to limit what it was possible to think about or discuss.

Logocidal is an extremely rare word, whose appearances can be counted on both hands with fingers to spare. However, it has been wielded twice in recent years by the journalist Marina Hyde in the Guardian. She uses it for language that’s obfuscatory to the point of meaninglessness, the kind employed by politicians and public figures to avoid committing themselves, a travesty of communication that Orwell parodied in his essay Politics and the English Language.

David Cameron is far less of a logocidal maniac than Miliband, it must be said, but to listen to the message from any side these days is to wonder if they focus-grouped it in a head trauma unit. If so, my double sympathies to the poor patients.

Guardian, 9 May 2014.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 19 Jul. 2014

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
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Last modified: 19 July 2014.