Here are more examples of the overuse of Orwellian.
- Forbes attacked Obamacare as Orwellian in 2012.
- Common Dreams placed Happy Meals in the sphere of, "McDonald's Orwellian manipulations."
- The beverage industry characterized Bloomberg's soda ban in terms of Orwellian grave rolling.
That's because Orwell crusaded against clichés like few public figures have before or since. As he said in his widely cited 1946 writing treatise Politics and the English Language: "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print."
Does it matter that "Orwellian" has become a conveniently meaningless cliché? Orwell's literature says yes. The destructive power of squishy political language was at the heart of Animal Farm, as the sinister shift of the slogan "Four legs good; two legs bad" to "Four legs good; two legs better" over the course of the novel shows.
Then again, that a public intellectual's name would come to represent a hazy collection of things he opposed might not surprise Orwell. Over and over again in his career, he pointed out how writers and orators exploited terms that seemed erudite, using their veneer of credibility to prop up otherwise unpalatable ideas. It's a practice that people today might call... well, never mind.
The author loathed cliches and conveniently murky political buzzwords—like "Orwellian."