Simplified Language of Socialism

By Jack London and Arthur George

In Jack London's era of the early growth of the socialist movement, the English language also came under scrutiny. The lack of any standardized spelling was seen as irrational and old-fashioned. (And, i suppose, could also be seen as an unnecessary social barrier making the leap not only to literacy, but to mastering written English in a way that may earn respect, very difficult for many from the working classes with less time and resources to be spent on such activities). London and fellow socialist Arthur George, took a slightly different and humorous approach to the debate, and issued the following directive in march 1907.

From Appeal to Reason, 30 March 1907:

Simplified Language of Socialism

We, the Simplified Language Committee of the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, recommend, after careful deliberation, that the following three hundred words, with their roots, derivatives and related forms, be as rapidly as possible retired to academic obscurity, or entirely abolished. In order that this may be accomplished, we recommend that all habits, customs and practices that have caused their introduction in the language be, by every possible means, done away with, and that new laws, standards and methods be sought, that shall, by their logical operations, render the use of these words obsolete:

Adulteration, adultery, agitator, alien, alms, alimony, anarchy, animalism, aristocracy, army, arsenal, arson, artillery, assassin, avarice.

Bagnio, bankrupt, barbarian, bargain, bawdy, beastly, beggar, bestial, bet, bibulous, bigamy, blacklist, blackmail, bloodshed, bondage, boor, brandy, bribe, broker, brothel, brutality, burglar.

Cant, capitalist, charity (alms), cheat, contraband, convict (n), counterfeit, covet, crime, criminal, curse.

Damn, debauchery, debt, decadence, degeneracy, demagogue, detective, depravity, despair, despotism, destitution, devil, dictator, divorce, domestic (n), drudge, drunkard, dude, dupe, duplicity.

Effeminate, embezzler, employer, employee, ennui, envy, extravagance.

Faction, fake, fanatic, fiend, firm (n), foreigner, forger, fornication, fraud.

Garrison, gossip, graft (unlawful profit).

Haggle, handcuff, heathen, hell, heresy, homicide, hypocrisy.

Idiocy, idler, illicit, imbecile, immodesty, immorality, incest, indigence, indolence, inebriate, inhuman, iniquity, insanity, insolvency, insurance, insurrection, insurgent, intemperance, interest (usury), internecine, intrigue.


King, knave.

Lackey, landlord, larceny, lawyer, laziness, lechery, lewd, liaison, liar, libel, libertine, libidinous, licentious, lickspittle, livery, loafer, luck, lunacy, lust, lynch.

Machination, malcontent, malefactor, malevolence, malice, maniac, massacre, matricide, mayhem, meanness, melancholy, meretricious, military, minion, misanthrope, miscreant, miser, mob, monarch, monomania, monotony, morbid, mortgage, mutiny, murder.

Nefarious, nepotism, niggard.

Obscenity, oligarchy, oppression, ostentation, outcast, outlaw, outrage, overload.

Pander, paramour, parricide, partisan, paternalism, pauper, pawnshop, pawnbroker, peculate, peddler, penal, penitentiary, penury, perjury, perquisite, persecution, philanthropist, pimp, plutocrat, poacher, poll tax, polygamy, poorhouse, pornography, poverty, prejudice, prison, procurer, profanity, proletariat, prolicide, prostitute, prude.

Quack (a pretender in medicine).

Rake (libertine), rant, rape (criminal assault), rebel, regiment, revenge, renegade, ringleader, riot, robber, roue, ruffian, rum.

Sabre, saloon (a poison shop), sanguinary, satan, savage (n), scandal, scoundrel, sedition, seduce, selfish, sensual, serf, servant, servile, shiftless, shirk, shoddy, shoplifter, sin, sinecure, slander, slave, slum, smuggler, snob, soldier, spurious, squalor, starvation, strike (a labor mutiny), strumpet, suicide, superstition, sycophant, syphilis.

Tenant, tenement, termagent, terrorist, thief, timeserver, tinsel, tip (a bribe), tipsy, toady, toper, tout, traitor, tramp (an outcast), traveler (“drummer”), treachery, treadmill, treason, trespass, trooper, turnkey, turpitude, tyrant.

Unlawful, unmanly, usury, uxoricide.

Vagabond, vagrancy, valet, vandal, venal, vengeance, villain .

Wager, wages, waif, war, whiskey, whore, working-class.


In order that the object of the committee may be better understood, we append an additional list of three hundred words, to represent the type of language that we desire to have preserved, and brought into more general usage, reflecting the growth of those laws, standards and methods of social activity which are indifferently known as democratic, republican or Socialist, replacing the anarchistic language and ideals that now prevail:

Ability, abundance, accomplish, accord, accrue, accumulate, achieve, acquire, activity, admiration, adorn, advance, affection, affluence, alacrity, alleviate, ambition, amity, ample, animation, anthropology, anticipation, appreciation, approbation, architecture, ardor, art, aspiration, assurance, astronomy, attainment.

Balance, bath, beauty, belief, beneficence, benevolence, best, better, brave, breeding, brisk, business, busy.

Candid, certain, capable, capital (productive property), cash, celebrity, champion, change, charity (affection, toleration), chastity, cheer, chemistry, chief, chivalry, choice, clever, comfort, commend, comparison, competition, conservatism, constancy, constructive, courtesy, creative, culture.

Decent, decorum, deference, democracy, devotion, dexterity, dignity, diligence, diversity, domestic (adj.), duty.

Earn, earnest, education, eminence, employment, emulation, encourage, endeavor, energy, engineering, enlightenment, equity, erudition, esteem, excellence, exchange, exertion, expert.

Faith, fame, family, federal, fidelity, foreman, freedom, free-will, friendship, fund.

Gain, genius, gentleman, genuine, geography, geology, geometry, graft (horticultural or surgical process), grandeur.

Harmony, health, heroism, home, homely (typical of home), honesty, honor.

Idealism, improvement, incentive, independence, individuality, industry, innovation, integrity, intellect, intelligent, intercourse, interest, invention, income.

Kindness, knowledge.

Labor, lady, law, leisure, liberty, library, lineage, literature, love, loyalty.

Machinery, manliness, mansion, marriage, mathematics, matrimony, melioration, melody, merchandise, merit, merry, method, ministry, modesty, money, monogamy, morality, music, mutual.

Navigation, navy, neighbor.

Order, organization, originality.

Palace, patriotism, pay, peace, philanthropy, philosophy, poetry, possession, praise, pride, privacy, probity, profit, progress, property, prosperity, protection, provident, pulchritude, purity.

Reason, rectitude, reliance, remuneration, repose, republic, residence, respect, responsibility, riches, right, robust, romance.

Sagacity, sale, saloon (a hall of art or entertainment), sanitation, sanity, sanguine, scholarship, science, sculpture, sedulous, seemly, self-help, self-control, self-interest, self-reliance, sensuous, sentiment, service, sincere, skill, sober, society, sociable, solidarity, song, soul, stately, statesman, statuary, statute, strength, strenuous, success, superb, superintend, superior, supreme, symmetry, sympathy, synarchy, system.

Tact, talent, teach, technology, techtonics, temperate, tenacity, tenderness, thoroughbred, thought, thrift, toll, tourist, trade, traffic, travel, treasure, triumph, truth.

Unity, university, upright, uplift.

Valiant, value, variety, veneration, venture, veriloquent, verve, veteran, vie, vigilance, vigor, virile, virtue, vim, vocation.

Wealth, wedlock, welfare, wholesome, wife, wit, womanly, work, worthy.

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