Aesopian Language

The Russian writer Mikhail Saltykov-Schedrin (1826-1889) was the first intellectual who used this term to describe a certain writing technique. It was named after the ancient Greek fabulist, storyteller and slave, Aesop (c. 620 – 564 BCE), who created a number of fables and who is regarded as the father of European fable poetry.

Aesopian language uses words, metaphors and other ‘codes’ that convey innocent meanings to outsiders but hold concealed meanings to informed members of conspiracy or underground groups.

Saltykov-Schedrin began using this technique to evade censorship while he was satirizing the social ills of his environment during the late Russian Empire. The necessity of this rhetorical device was a witness of the illiberal hegemony of that time. 

When was the last time you needed to use Aesopian language?

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