A Summary and Analysis of George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’
By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)
‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946) is one of the best-known essays by George Orwell (1903-50). As its title suggests, Orwell identifies a link between the (degraded) English language of his time and the degraded political situation: Orwell sees modern discourse (especially political discourse) as being less a matter of words chosen for their clear meanings than a series of stock phrases slung together.
You can read ‘Politics and the English Language’ here before proceeding to our summary and analysis of Orwell’s essay below.
‘Politics and the English Language’: summary
Orwell begins by drawing attention to the strong link between the language writers use and the quality of political thought in the current age (i.e. the 1940s). He argues that if we use language that is slovenly and decadent, it makes it easier for us to fall into bad habits of thought, because language and thought are so closely linked.
Orwell then gives five examples of what he considers bad political writing. He draws attention to two faults which all five passages share: staleness of imagery and lack of precision . Either the writers of these passages had a clear meaning to convey but couldn’t express it clearly, or they didn’t care whether they communicated any particular meaning at all, and were simply saying things for the sake of it.
Orwell writes that this is a common problem in current political writing: ‘prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.’
Next, Orwell elaborates on the key faults of modern English prose, namely:
Dying Metaphors : these are figures of speech which writers lazily reach for, even though such phrases are worn-out and can no longer convey a vivid image. Orwell cites a number of examples, including toe the line , no axe to grind , Achilles’ heel , and swansong . Orwell’s objection to such dying metaphors is that writers use them without even thinking about what the phrases actually mean, such as when people misuse toe the line by writing it as tow the line , or when they mix their metaphors, again, because they’re not interested in what those images evoke.
Operators or Verbal False Limbs : this is when a longer and rather vague phrase is used in place of a single-word (and more direct) verb, e.g. make contact with someone, which essentially means ‘contact’ someone. The passive voice is also common, and writing phrases like by examination of instead of the more direct by examining . Sentences are saved from fizzling out (because the thought or idea being conveyed is not particularly striking) by largely meaningless closing platitudes such as greatly to be desired or brought to a satisfactory conclusion .
Pretentious Diction : Orwell draws attention to several areas here. He states that words like objective , basis , and eliminate are used by writers to dress up simple statements, making subjective opinion sound like scientific fact. Adjectives like epic , historic , and inevitable are used about international politics, while writing that glorifies war is full of old-fashioned words like realm , throne , and sword .
Foreign words and phrases like deus ex machina and mutatis mutandis are used to convey an air of culture and elegance. Indeed, many modern English writers are guilty of using Latin or Greek words in the belief that they are ‘grander’ than home-grown Anglo-Saxon ones: Orwell mentions Latinate words like expedite and ameliorate here. All of these examples are further proof of the ‘slovenliness and vagueness’ which Orwell detects in modern political prose.
Meaningless Words : Orwell argues that much art criticism and literary criticism in particular is full of words which don’t really mean anything at all, e.g. human , living , or romantic . ‘Fascism’, too, has lost all meaning in current political writing, effectively meaning ‘something not desirable’ (one wonders what Orwell would make of the word’s misuse in our current time!).
To prove his point, Orwell ‘translates’ a well-known passage from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes into modern English, with all its vagueness of language. ‘The whole tendency of modern prose’, he argues, ‘is away from concreteness.’ He draws attention to the concrete and everyday images (e.g. references to bread and riches) in the Bible passage, and the lack of any such images in his own fabricated rewriting of this passage.
The problem, Orwell says, is that it is too easy (and too tempting) to reach for these off-the-peg phrases than to be more direct or more original and precise in one’s speech or writing.
Orwell advises every writer to ask themselves four questions (at least): 1) what am I trying to say? 2) what words will express it? 3) what image or idiom will make it clearer? and 4) is this image fresh enough to have an effect? He proposes two further optional questions: could I put it more shortly? and have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
Orthodoxy, Orwell goes on to observe, tends to encourage this ‘lifeless, imitative style’, whereas rebels who are not parroting the ‘party line’ will normally write in a more clear and direct style.
But Orwell also argues that such obfuscating language serves a purpose: much political writing is an attempt to defend the indefensible, such as the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan (just one year before Orwell wrote ‘Politics and the English Language’), in such a euphemistic way that the ordinary reader will find it more palatable.
When your aim is to make such atrocities excusable, language which doesn’t evoke any clear mental image (e.g. of burning bodies in Hiroshima) is actually desirable.
Orwell argues that just as thought corrupts language, language can corrupt thought, with these ready-made phrases preventing writers from expressing anything meaningful or original. He believes that we should get rid of any word which has outworn its usefulness and should aim to use ‘the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning’.
Writers should let the meaning choose the word, rather than vice versa. We should think carefully about what we want to say until we have the right mental pictures to convey that thought in the clearest language.
Orwell concludes ‘Politics and the English Language’ with six rules for the writer to follow:
i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
‘Politics and the English Language’: analysis
In some respects, ‘Politics and the English Language’ advances an argument about good prose language which is close to what the modernist poet and thinker T. E. Hulme (1883-1917) argued for poetry in his ‘ A Lecture on Modern Poetry ’ and ‘Notes on Language and Style’ almost forty years earlier. Although Hulme and Orwell came from opposite ends of the political spectrum, their objections to lazy and worn-out language stem are in many ways the same.
Hulme argued that poetry should be a forge where fresh metaphors are made: images which make us see the world in a slightly new way. But poetic language decays into common prose language before dying a lingering death in journalists’ English. The first time a poet described a hill as being ‘clad [i.e. clothed] with trees’, the reader would probably have mentally pictured such an image, but in time it loses its power to make us see anything.
Hulme calls these worn-out expressions ‘counters’, because they are like discs being moved around on a chessboard: an image which is itself not unlike Orwell’s prefabricated hen-house in ‘Politics and the English Language’.
Of course, Orwell’s focus is English prose rather than poetry, and his objections to sloppy writing are not principally literary (although that is undoubtedly a factor) but, above all, political. And he is keen to emphasise that his criticism of bad language, and suggestions for how to improve political writing, are both, to an extent, hopelessly idealistic: as he observes towards the end of ‘Politics and the English Language’, ‘Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against.’
But what Orwell advises is that the writer be on their guard against such phrases, the better to avoid them where possible. This is why he encourages writers to be more self-questioning (‘What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?’) when writing political prose.
Nevertheless, the link between the standard of language and the kind of politics a particular country, regime, or historical era has is an important one. As Orwell writes: ‘I should expect to find – this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify – that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.’
Those writing under a dictatorship cannot write or speak freely, of course, but more importantly, those defending totalitarian rule must bend and abuse language in order to make ugly truths sound more attractive to the general populace, and perhaps to other nations.
In more recent times, the phrase ‘collateral damage’ is one of the more objectionable phrases used about war, hiding the often ugly reality (innocent civilians who are unfortunate victims of violence, but who are somehow viewed as a justifiable price to pay for the greater good).
Although Orwell’s essay has been criticised for being too idealistic, in many ways ‘Politics and the English Language’ remains as relevant now as it was in 1946 when it was first published.
Indeed, to return to Orwell’s opening point about decadence, it is unavoidable that the standard of political discourse has further declined since Orwell’s day. Perhaps it’s time a few more influential writers started heeding his argument?
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9 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’”
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YES! Thank you!
A great and useful post. As a writer, I have been seriously offended by the politicization of the language in the past 50 years. Much of this is supposedly to sanitize, de-genderize, or diversity-fie language – exactly as it’s done in Orwell’s “1984.” How did a wonderfully useful word like gay – cheerful or lively – come to mean homosexual? And is optics not a branch of physics? Ironically, when the liberal but sensible JK Rowling criticized the replacement of “woman” with “person who menstruates” SHE was the one attacked. Now, God help us, we hope “crude” spaceships will get humans to Mars – which, if you research the poor quality control in Tesla cars, might in fact be a proper term.
And less anyone out there misread, this or me – I was a civil rights marcher, taught in a girls’ high school (where I got in minor trouble for suggesting to the students that they should aim higher than the traditional jobs of nurse or teacher), and – while somewhat of a mugwump – consider myself a liberal.
But I will fight to keep the language and the history from being 1984ed.
My desert island book would be the Everyman Essays of Orwell which is around 1200 pages. I’ve read it all the way through twice without fatigue and read individual essays endlessly. His warmth and affability help, Even better than Montaigne in this heretic’s view.
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I’ll go against the flow here and say Orwell was – at least in part – quite wrong here. If I recall correctly, he was wrong about a few things including, I think, the right way to make a cup of tea! In all seriousness, what he fails to acknowledge in this essay is that language is a living thing and belongs to the people, not the theorists, at all time. If a metaphor changes because of homophone mix up or whatever, then so be it. Many of our expressions we have little idea of now – I think of ‘baited breath’ which almost no one, even those who know how it should be spelt, realise should be ‘abated breath’.
Worse than this though, his ‘rules’ have indeed been taken up by many would-be writers to horrifying effect. I recall learning to make up new metaphors and similes rather than use clichés when I first began training ten years ago or more. I saw some ghastly new metaphors over time which swiftly made me realise that there’s a reason we use the same expressions a great deal and that is they are familiar and do the job well. To look at how to use them badly, just try reading Gregory David Roberts ‘Shantaram’. Similarly, the use of active voice has led to unpalatable writing which lacks character. The passive voice may well become longwinded when badly used, but it brings character when used well.
That said, Orwell is rarely completely wrong. Some of his points – essentially, use words you actually understand and don’t be pretentious – are valid. But the idea of the degradation of politics is really quite a bit of nonsense!
Always good to get some critique of Orwell, Ken! And I do wonder how tongue-in-cheek he was when proposing his guidelines – after all, even he admits he’s probably broken several of his own rules in the course of his essay! I think I’m more in the T. E. Hulme camp than the Orwell – poetry can afford to bend language in new ways (indeed, it often should do just this), and create daring new metaphors and ways of viewing the world. But prose, especially political non-fiction, is there to communicate an argument or position, and I agree that ghastly new metaphors would just get in the way. One of the things that is refreshing reading Orwell is how many of the problems he identified are still being discussed today, often as if they are new problems that didn’t exist a few decades ago. Orwell shows that at least one person was already discussing them over half a century ago!
Absolutely true! When you have someone of Orwell’s intelligence and clear thinking, even when you believe him wrong or misguided, he is still relevant and remains so decades later.
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Politics and the English Language
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- Politics and the English Language Summary
George Orwell ’s essay “ Politics and the English Language ,” begins by refuting common presumptions that hold that the decline of the English language is a reflection of the state of society and politics, that this degeneration is inevitable, and that it’s hopeless to resist it. This disempowering idea, he says, derives from an understanding of language as a “natural growth” rather than an “instrument which we shape for our own purposes” (251). As an instrument, language can be manipulated for various purposes. As Orwell will show, language can also manipulate those who use it unconsciously.
He presents a list of corrupting habits that cause writers to think poorly and thus write poorly. The list includes unoriginal or mixed metaphors, pretentious diction, and abstract or meaningless language. When a person becomes lazy they allow their language to think for them. In this way, political writers end up following a party line. By using set phrases, they pantomime ideology without thinking. Independent thinking is necessary for a healthy political life.
As corrupted language smothers independent, original thinking, it thus serves a political purpose. Orwell demonstrates the deceptive effect of various political terms, showing how elevated, complex and abstract language actively disguises ugly and violent concrete realities. In this way, abstract language becomes a means for political writers to “justify unjustifiables.” He presents a list of tools that can be used to resist dishonest language.
Orwell sees the use of honest language as political act in itself, a form of resistance against insidious and widespread manipulations of rhetorical structures. He says that in an atmosphere of “terrible politics” (such as the period in which he’s writing), corrupted language is almost inevitable. But this doesn’t make the resistance against it futile. He returns to the claim that he opens with: that language is a tool, and not a natural evolutionary growth. It’s thus possible to manipulate that tool. It does however, take diligent, conscious effort on the part of the political writer or speaker. Orwell thinks that mindless and actively deceptive language can be identified and resisted through ridicule, and, most of all, through a diligent commitment to honest representation.
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Politics and English language
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
- Never use the passive where you can use the...
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Study Guide for Politics and the English Language
Politics and the English Language study guide contains a biography of George Orwell, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
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“Politics and the English Language.” By George Orwell.
In his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell poses a thoughtful question: Does language experience “natural growth” or is it shaped “for our own purposes”? In other words, does the English language organically evolve over time or is it purposefully manipulated in order to affect the social order? Anyone familiar with Orwell’s body of work can probably guess at the trajectory of his response. Although one could argue that this seminal essay on 20th-century linguistics was written merely to lament the “general collapse” of language as a reflection of the general collapse of civilization following the Second World War, Orwell’s ultimate purpose is to show that social activists can unduly manipulate language for their own ends by obscuring meaning, corrupting thought, and rendering language a minefield in the political landscape. Why? Orwell says: to effect changes in thought and affections and to shame those who somehow prove impervious to manipulation.
Orwell dramatizes this assertion in Nineteen Eighty-Four . Published three years after “Politics and the English Language,” the iconic dystopic novel imagines a futuristic government that manipulates language so that its citizens conform in thought, word, and deed to a narrow political orthodoxy. Language, in fact, is the primary change agent, assisted by government-engineered fearmongering and savage punishments for language dissidents.
Just as language matters in the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four , it matters in our world too. Consider, for example, the basics of “inclusive language.” Back when Orwell was writing, and throughout much of the 20th century, the accepted universal singular pronouns were he , him , and his , a reality codified in every English grammar text published before 1999. These pronouns referred to any individual, whether male or female, as in “Every student should bring his book to class.” The meaning was clear, the convention was understood, and because it was an accepted grammatical convention, no one was denounced as sexist for applying its usage. Some years later, in an effort to be “inclusive,” language handlers in academia and the publishing industry pointed out that the convention itself was sexist and reinforced sexism in society. If they could change the convention, they reasoned, they could change society.
The language handlers first promoted the alternative “inclusive” usage of he or she , him or her , and his or hers — and soon thereafter demanded it. Those who continued using traditional grammatical constructions that included the universal pronouns he , him , and his (especially men) were often branded, on the basis of their grammar alone, as sexists. But mere social stigma later gave way to punitive actions. For example, in 2013, California State University, Chico, revised its definition of sexual harassment and sexual violence to include “continual use of generic masculine terms such as to refer to people of both sexes.” Thus, Chico profs who say, “Every student should bring his book to class” are susceptible to disciplinary actions, up to and including dismissal. As you might imagine, Chico is not alone in this. Rather, this is the norm on most college campuses.
But now, in 2020, it is no longer acceptable to use he or she or him or her . What was once promoted and then demanded by language handlers as inclusive has now been deemed verboten by the same people! Who are these language handlers? In brief, they are the engineers of the English-language style manuals used by academia, the media, and the publishing industry, all easy prey to special-interest lobbyists who demand language changes to promote their sociopolitical agendas. Last year, for example, the American Psychological Association (APA) announced a change to its stylebook, advocating for the singular they because it is “inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender.” The APA style guide makes it clear that using his or her is no longer inclusive and no longer acceptable. This could not have happened without the proponents of transgenderism pushing for the manipulation of language. In order for the APA’s statement to make any sense — “they…is inclusive of all people and helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender” — one is forced to accept the premises of transgenderism, including the theory of so-called nonbinary gender. If one is to accept the usage of the singular they , one must also accept the fantasy that an infinite number of genders exists and that language is tied to something called “gender expression” rather than to sex, which is binary (i.e., male and female).
In 2018 the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) released a “Statement on Gender and Language,” promoting the use of the singular they as the only inclusive universal pronoun. In its position statement, the NCTE actually spells out the premises one must accept in order to make sense of the singular they . This is not about language clarity or precision; this is about advancing a sociopolitical agenda that requires everyone — yes, everyone — to accept the following terms:
Gender identity: an individual’s feeling about, relationship with, and understanding of gender as it pertains to their sense of self. An individual’s gender identity may or may not be related to the sex that individual was assigned at birth.
Gender expression: external presentation of one’s gender identity, often through behavior, clothing, haircut, or voice, which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.
Cisgender: of or relating to a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Transgender: of or relating to a person whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. This umbrella term may refer to someone whose gender identity is woman or man, or to someone whose gender identity is nonbinary (see below).
Nonbinary: of or relating to a person who does not identify, or identify solely, as either a woman or a man. More specific nonbinary identifiers include but are not limited to terms such as agender and gender fluid (see below).
Gender fluid: of or relating to individuals whose identity shifts among genders. This term overlaps with terms such as genderqueer and bigender, implying movement among gender identities and/or presentations.
Agender: of or relating to a person who does not identify with any gender, or who identifies as neutral or genderless.
The NCTE, like the APA, the Chicago Manual of Style , and the Associated Press, not only advocates using the singular they , it also prohibits “using he as a universal pronoun” and “using binary alternatives such as he/she , he or she , or (s)he .” And, in case you don’t understand the prohibition, the NCTE provides an example of the forbidden “exclusionary (binary)” language: “Every cast member should know his or her lines by Friday” must be rephrased as “Every cast member should know their lines by Friday.” But the new convention presents an offense against the dignity of traditional grammar usage, as the plural pronoun, their, does not agree with its singular subject, cast member . (Really now, a simpler rewrite would render the sentence both grammatically correct and “inclusive”: All cast members should know their lines by Friday .) And, according to NCTE, in the case of a student named Alex, who declares that his preferred pronouns are they , them , and their, a teacher should say, “Alex needs to learn their lines by Friday.” Yes, seriously, this is the example given by the NCTE. (And whose lines, one may ask? Everyone’s lines? This phrasing is lacking in precision and clarity, and this from the organization that exerts enormous influence over our nation’s high-school English teachers!) To be sure, teachers and students will be forced to utter the ridiculous: Alex needs to learn their lines by Friday . Failing to do so could, in the near future, be construed as gender harassment and be cause for expulsion or sacking.
So, why does it matter what the APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or the NCTE has to say on the matter of nonbinary, gender-inclusive language and the singular they ? Well, the APA sets the writing style and format conventions for academic essays for many college and high-school students, as well as for scholarly articles and books. The Chicago Manual of Style (published by the University of Chicago) sets the editorial standards and conventions that are widely used in the publishing industry. And the NCTE, as mentioned above, sets the tone for high-school English teachers across the nation, those who will teach our children to read, write, and speak.
In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell calls this “an invasion of one’s mind” — again, the purposeful manipulation of language in order to corrupt one’s thoughts and affections. Thus, the choice of academia, the media, and the publishing industry to adopt the singular they is not simply about word choice — as silly and illogical as it may be: Alex needs to learn their lines by Friday! — it is about forcing students and others to accept the language of transgenderism and the ideological corollaries behind the vocabulary. It is asking us all to accept something that is less than reality. Pronouns, we are told, are no longer related to the body (male and female) but to the mind, how one “identifies” or “expresses” the social construct of gender. Reality is denied, and the fluid world of one’s nonbinary fancy replaces it.
It is worth noting that last year the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education published a 30-page document, “Male and Female He Created Them,” on this very topic. Quoting Pope Francis, it explains that gender theory “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.” This ideology, Pope Francis explains, promotes “a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time.” Thus, in the case of the Catholic educator or the Catholic student, one must compromise one’s religious principles in order to conform to the industry standards of language.
This attempt to transplant pronouns from the body to the mind, Orwell might say, is an attempt to destroy our ability to communicate. According to this new norm, one can now choose from a multitude of “gender identities” — or simply make up a new one — none of which has any fixed link to a specific set of pronouns. (Some recently emerging gender pronouns include zir, ze, xe, hir, per, ve, ey, hen , and thon . And there are more! Facebook, for example, offers 50 options. Fifty!) In fact, following this reasoning, gender expressionists may, at any time and for any reason, decide to change their preferred personal pronouns but without changing their gender identity; they may also decide to change their gender identity without changing their preferred pronouns — or they may choose to change both.
This is the kind of linguistic pretension that, as Orwell warns, obscures meaning, corrupts thought, and renders language a minefield in the political landscape. Why a minefield? As Orwell illustrated in Nineteen Eighty-Four , language-engineering is an attempt to shame or punish those who disagree with the ascribed linguistic orthodoxy. And, again, to what end? As Chicago-based community activist Saul Alinsky famously wrote in his manifesto Rules for Radicals (1971), “He who controls the language controls the masses.” (Note his use of “sexist language” by way of the universal singular pronoun he. ) Alinsky, an enthusiastic advocate of manipulating language for political purposes, agrees with Orwell: It’s all about thought control; it’s about superimposing a sociopolitical ideology on the masses; it’s about altering our understanding of the world; it’s about customizing the language to effect whimsical social change. It’s ultimately about altering reality so that, as Orwell dramatized in Nineteen Eighty-Four , we come to accept that “war is peace,” that “freedom is slavery,” and that two plus two equals five.
Orwell, as evidenced by “Politics and the English Language,” believes that language should reflect reality. If it doesn’t, what possible limits could be placed on misleading, manipulative language, whether in grade-school textbooks, government documents, or political campaign literature? If language is “always evolving,” as many commentators have reasoned in their recent support of so-called nonbinary, gender-inclusive language (including the singular they ), what is stopping anyone from using this as an excuse to effect any change in any language for any reason at any time?
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George Orwell's 'Politics and the English Language'
George Orwell published his famous essay "Politics and the English Language" in 1946, and we mostly wish he hadn't.
Hosted by Emily Brewster, Ammon Shea, and Peter Sokolowski.
Produced in collaboration with New England Public Media.
Download the episode here .
Emily Brewster: Coming up on Word Matters, things get Orwellian in the narrowest sense of the word. I'm Emily Brewster, and Word Matters is produced by Merriam-Webster in collaboration with New England Public Media. On each episode, Merriam-Webster editors Ammon Shea, Peter Sokolowski, and I explore some aspect of the English language from the dictionary's vantage point. In 1946, George Orwell published his now-famous essay, "Politics and the English Language." Ammon sincerely wishes he hadn't.
Ammon Shea: One of the questions I feel like when you work in dictionaries that you often get from people, is that people always want to know what words are there that you hate, or that one hates or would banish from the language, and what words do you like. I feel like most lexicographers I know are pretty studious in trying to avoid having favorites or certainly about having dis-favorite words. But what I do have a distaste for is writings about words. My least favorite words are just peeves about language. I have to say perhaps foremost among my personal peeves is a piece of writing that is beloved by many. I like to think this is not just my contrarian nature that makes it so despised by me. It's that I think it's a bad piece of writing. I am speaking, of course, of George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." Have you two feelings on this?
Peter Sokolowski: I've only just read it recently. It's one of those things that is referred to so frequently. I'm embarrassed to say, I don't think I ever studied it in school, so I took some of it kind of secondhand, for granted, the way lots of intellectual movements, someone didn't have to study Derrida to know what deconstruction is or to at least know that word is used often by other people. So I often took this to be a reference to the idea that politicians use words in a deliberately manipulative way. So I took it not as a linguistic document at all, but as a more philosophical or a political idea. I usually saw it in the context of names of political parties or movements or laws, something like the Clean Air Act, which I think was criticized for also helping fossil fuels. So people said, "Well, that's Orwellian," because you call it one thing but you really mean something else. So I interpreted it in that very filtered way through the culture.
Emily Brewster: I think I read it about five years after I read ) Animal Farm , so Animal Farm , eighth grade; freshman year of college maybe, "Politics and the English Language." I think I loved them both and believed them both completely. Thought they were just both absolutely brilliant. I didn't actually read this 1946 essay again until last night. I see some problems with Orwell's assertions at this stage, but I can also defend some of them, so.
Ammon Shea: Okay, great. What is this if not an argument. As you pointed out, it was published in 1946. It came out in the journal, "Horizon." When we talk about this particular essay, it is always important to note, and right at the beginning, that Orwell himself is claiming that he's not speaking about language in general. He's talking about political language, the language used by politicians. He specifically says, "I have not here been considering the literary use of language." If we're generous, we can give him that, but I think it's kind of a dodge because I feel like he does kind of broaden his scope. But also I feel like one of the things that has happened with this particular essay is that it is used as kind of a club by many people today in talking about language, and it is almost never used in the context of political language. People just talk out Orwell's views on English, and they don't say, "This is what Orwell had to say about politicians using the language. It's just used as a kind of general thing."
Ammon Shea: To me, one of the main problems is that Orwell seems to have very little idea of how language in general and English in particular actually works. It almost is farcically bad. I remember reading it as a kid and thinking, "Oh, this must be great. He's laying down these rules." We all love rules. We want rules about language. We want language to make sense. It feels very comforting to think that these are concrete steps that I can take to make my language use better, but they're not true. To say that the messenger is flawed is really being over-kind.
Emily Brewster: What does he say that's not true?
Ammon Shea: Well, he has a lot of things about, "Use short words. Never use a long word where a short word will do," which is this longstanding bugaboo with many people. Before Fowler wrote Modern English Usage , his famous book in 1926, he wrote a book with his brother, The King's English . They said you should always prefer the Saxon word to the Romance. E.B. White in The Elements of Style actually wrote, "Anglo-Saxon is a livelier tongue than Latin so use Anglo-Saxon words." Winston Churchill is quoted, whether he said it or not, as saying, "Short words are best, and the old words, when short are best of all." We've long had this feeling that you should go with the short Anglo-Saxon words rather than these fancy, flowery, long Latin words, which to me is just kind of a silly thing to say. I like long words, and when long words are appropriate, they're totally fine. So I think saying, "Never use a long word when a short one will do," is a little bit awkward considering that Orwell uses plenty of long words.
Emily Brewster: I'm looking at the essay. In the second paragraph he uses the word slovenliness . There's some significant letters in there.
Ammon Shea: What he's very good at doing, though, is breaking his own rule in the same sentence that he gives it. In this particular essay, he says, "There is a long list of fly-blown metaphors which could similarly to be got rid of." This is the section where he says, "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." Fly-blown is, of course, a metaphor. Unless the actual words here have the larva of flies growing out of them, they are not actually a fly-blown metaphor. They're metaphorical metaphors that he's talking about. The essay also has plenty of similes: "like cavalry horses answering the bugle," "a mass of Latin words," "falls upon the facts like soft snow." He talks about like a cuttlefish spreading out ink. He uses these similes and metaphors liberally. So it's kind of odd to me that he exhorts us to not use them. I think perhaps his most egregious mistake is when he says, "Never use the passive voice where you can use the active."
Emily Brewster: Except, Ammon, he doesn't say it like that. This stuck out to me also. He says-
Ammon Shea: It's the very first sentence. "Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way," and then he says, "it is generally assumed," passive voice here, "that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it." He's using the passive voice to tell you not to use the passive voice. So either he doesn't believe his own advice, or he doesn't understand it.
Emily Brewster: Then later in the same essay, he says, "In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active." That itself is in the passive voice. "The passive voice is used," not "writers used the passive voice." Just to refresh people, if you wanted to say "the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active," you would say "writers use the passive voice wherever possible, rather than preferring the active voice." So he is actively doing the things he says writers should not do in his own writing over and over again.
Ammon Shea: He does it in almost all cases. In fact, some people connected with language have found fault with this essay over the years. My favorite was, some while ago, some people went through and actually counted the number of instances in which he used the passive rather than the active voice and found that he was about twice as much as your average college essay at the time. He's using it in 20% of the cases as opposed to 10% of the time when people usually use it in this setting.
Emily Brewster: Wow.
Ammon Shea: He says, "Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent." He gives a list of phrases to avoid: deus ex machina , mutatis mutandis , status quo , ancien régime . If you go through any of his writing, he uses most of these in his other writings. He doesn't actually use them in this essay. So this is one that he's not okay with, but he does use them regularly. Overall, my favorite is his sixth rule, which is "Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous." I like this so much because it is the one rule that he actually adheres to in his own writing. He breaks all of his own rules so much that it raises the question of why he thought that this should happened in the first place.
Peter Sokolowski: To me, it's the first sentence of the second paragraph that caught my eye because he identifies himself as being a member of a kind of club and invites us to join that club. He says, "Now it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes." Now, first of all, I don't think that's clear at all. Second of all, he's announcing himself as declinist, that "kids today" basically is what he's saying and that "everything must be worse today because I remember when it was better." That is basically the same exact argument we hear all the time. It's the exact same argument that was put against Webster's Third . It's declinism. It's that everything is going to pot and everything is terrible. The weird thing about Orwell is that he makes the same mistake that everyone with a declinist argument makes, which is that he expects language to provide logic. That's just not how writing works. He insists that the decadent culture has produced a collapse of language and that that collapsed language then perpetuates this decline, which is an intellectual race to the bottom, which was exactly the argument against Webster's Third , blaming the dictionary for a perceived drop in quality of standardized test results or something. But the difference is he often seems to be blaming the words rather than the writing.
Ammon Shea: I think he does blame the words rather than writing. He also thinks that if we all just steel ourselves, we can change this. We can stem the flow of bad language by just being conscious of the words that we use. We're going to set a good example. There's a great point in this where he talks about how "the jeers of a few journalists" have done away with a number of phrases that he doesn't like, like "explore every avenue" and "leave no stone unturned." I think he's really overstating the effect that jeers of a few journalists can have on the language use of hundreds of millions of people. If you look at "explore every avenue" and "leave no stone unturned," in the decades following the 1940s, they actually increased dramatically. They're not going away. If they did go away, it wouldn't be because a few journalists like George Orwell jeered at them. It would be because people just stopped using these phrases.
Emily Brewster: You're listening to Word Matters. I'm Emily Brewster. We'll be right back with more on Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." Word Matters is produced by Merriam-Webster in collaboration with New England Public Media.
Peter Sokolowski: Word Matters listeners get 25% off all dictionaries and books at shop.merriam-webster.com by using the promo code "matters" at checkout. That's "matters," M-A-T-T-E-R-S at shop.merriam-webster.com.
Ammon Shea: I'm Ammon Shea. Do you have a question about the origin, history, or meaning of a word? Email us at [email protected].
Peter Sokolowski: I'm Peter Sokolowski. Join me every day for the Word of the Day, a brief look at the history and definition of one word, available at merriam-webster.com or wherever you get your podcasts. For more podcasts from New England Public Media, visit the NEPM podcast hub at nepm.org.
Emily Brewster: The conversation about George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" continues. I do think, though, that the writing that he objects to, and he starts out by giving five examples I think, it is bad writing. He is pointing out that there are real problems. Here is his first example, which I found just mind-numbing. It was by Professor Harold Lasky. The example says, "I am not indeed sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a 17th century Shelley had not become out of an experience ever more bitter in each year more alien to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate." I'm really good at reading opaque text, and this is really, really hard to follow.
Ammon Shea: I agree with you, absolutely. But I would point out that almost nothing in that would be fixed by any of the rules in Orwell's essay. He's using lots of short Saxon words in that piece. He's not using any metaphors or similes that I can see of. He's not using foreign expressions or phrases. I agree. That is a horrible piece of writing. I would not myself enjoy reading writing like that. Anyway, I'm with Orwell when he says that there is some bad writing out there, when he says there's bad political writing. Absolutely. But I feel that what he's kind of saying is let's make it better. Sure, I agree with that. That's where my agreement ends.
Emily Brewster: You agree with none of his advice?
Ammon Shea: I kind of agree with some of it a little bit. If it's possible to cut a word out, always cut it out? No, I don't agree with that. I think that's just a stylistic difference. I think if you look at writing in the 19th century, it's different than writing in the 20th century. It's just stylistically changed. I don't think that one is better for length than the other, or one is better for its brevity than the other.
Emily Brewster: I also have a problem with these kind of absolute statements: never use the passive voice, always use the fewest words possible. I think any kinds of absolutes are problematic. To always avoid any particular thing in writing is unhelpfully narrowing.
Ammon Shea: A great example of this kind of absolutism gone wrong is, we're all familiar with the "never end a sentence with a preposition." Of course, that's a meaningless thing. We end sentences with a preposition all the time. A lot of times the sentence construction demands ending a sentence with a preposition. Terminal prepositions are fine even though we've been hearing for hundreds of years that they're not. Every once in a while, somebody will come up with a variant on that. I used to occasionally see the rule in old uses books, "never end a sentence with a preposition or some other less meaningful word or insignificant word," I think was the way that they used to phrase it.
Ammon Shea: We're starting to make a little more sense if you don't want to end a sentence with a little blip, if you don't want to end your sentence with "of." Now, I don't think of prepositions as less meaningful or less significant personally, but that's just me. But I could see if somebody had the exhortation to end your sentence on an emphatic, meaningful, significant word, it's fine with me. I like that as a general rule of advice. But when you turn that into "Don't end it with a word that's less meaningful or significant," and that somehow becomes "Don't end it with a preposition or don't end it with this kind of thing," that's the kind of absolutism that just doesn't carry water.
Emily Brewster: This makes me think about the motivation for writing an essay such as this and the motivation for sharing an essay like this. This essay was written a long time ago now, in 1946. It is still something that people are talking about and are using in the aid of their own writing, and to try to get other people to be better writers. There is a desire among users of the English language to do that better, to become a better writer, and clearly Orwell thought that he had some important things as a skilled writer. This man was clearly a skilled writer of the English language. He published books. He knew how to use the English language. He was an expert in language use as much as anyone else who writes so many books or spend so much time using language. Any native speaker is actually also an expert. But he had a very specific kind of expertise, and he wanted to share this expertise with people. But he generalized his own expertise in a way that, as you point out, Ammon, was not even an accurate assessment of his own use. Why did he do that? What was he thinking?
Ammon Shea: I don't know why Orwell would write this. The lack of introspection here is stunning to me in that it comes up again and again and again. In the section on "Never use a long word where a short word one will do," he almost immediately says, "A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has got..." This phraseology? That's a pretty damn long word there. I'm sure I could cut phraseology down by at least two or three syllables. Shorter than phraseology? I don't know why he was so lacking in introspection about his own writing.
Ammon Shea: I do think I know why people are still so adamant in sharing this because I think people just want tools. They want to reduce this glorious mess that is English to a series of concrete steps that you can take to make it definably better. Should I use a long word? Never. How about, should I use this simile that I know? Never. These are things that you can say to yourself. When should I use a simile that I'm used to seeing in print? You should never a simile. No, I'm going to never use a simile, and my writing will therefore be better. But I don't think that language responds well to this kind of absolutism. It gives us a sense of comfort. It must be better because I'm following these rules that were set down in the journal, Horizon, and that our results will be better. I don't think that's the way that it works.
Peter Sokolowski: He's completely ignorant on matters of the scientific study of language, on what we would call linguistics. He's not a linguist, but he's a good writer. That is the problem here, which is that so many people and especially declinists or language change deniers, people who say "kids today," they often want language to be like math. They want it to be logical, and they want to find a formula. I think what this all points to for me is that good prose style is much more art than science, and it requires, dare I say it, humanities exposure, the kind of general exposure to good writing and lots of it that you can only get if you read a lot. That's really the club to join. Join the readers who then can identify, "Oh, yes. That is a nicely turned phrase."
Peter Sokolowski: The fact is Orwell writes this in 1946, and he has nothing but contempt and scorn for all political discourse. Yet, he's within a couple of years of Churchill saying, "We shall meet them on the beaches. We shall meet them on the landing grounds." He's within a couple of years of FDR saying, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Some of the greatest political utterances in the history of the language were made just a couple of years before this essay was written. So he's kind of deliberately putting his thumb on the scale, which is what a lot of essayists do. He's got the right reflex but the wrong tools. He's not equipped to help others write. All he really is doing is listing his peeves.
Emily Brewster: But Peter, of those examples that you cite, Churchill and FDR, I think Orwell would have given the thumbs up to. He would've said, "Yes, these are good examples."
Ammon Shea: But those are following his rules. There is something to be said for that. Those are well written, and I think they're very effective particularly as political discourse. Again, if we're going to be kind to Orwell we can say that, yes, a lot of what he's saying will apply to the current political language that was being used.
Ammon Shea: Something that Peter said a few minutes ago, and I'm going to disagree with that, which is that you said, "People want language to be like math." I think in some ways they do, but actually I think people want language to be like religion more than they want it to be like math. There's a comfort that people get from certain religious structures that some other people try to get from certain linguistic structures, that there are things which are done by the righteous, and there are things that are done by the unrighteous in a way. And that a lack of adherence to this set of structure betokens a lack of moral fiber in a way because we make these value judgments of people based on their language use which have nothing to do with anything a lot of the time. It's not a one-to-one comparison between religion and language, but I am often reminded of religious fervor when I hear the way that certain people talk about how language use should be.
Peter Sokolowski: A big part of the conversations that we've all had with members of the public or strangers, people who correspond with a dictionary in one way or another, is some kind of membership of a club. "You care about language in the way that I do." There is absolutely a huge moral component that is imposed upon that. We always are judging others by their use of language. We are always judged by our use of language, by the way we spell, by the way we pronounce words. That's just a simple human fact. It's easier for us as professionals to separate that from culture.
Peter Sokolowski: So what you just said, Ammon, which is so true, which is that these things have nothing to do with drawing moral conclusions, whether you end a sentence with a preposition or whether you don't put an apostrophe in "you're." Yet, it becomes a shorthand for the kind of person that I want to know or the kind of person that I grew up with or the kind of person my parents raised me to be. That's very extra-linguistic, isn't it? That's why I think, Ammon, your analysis is brilliant. That takes you into something like religion, like culture, that goes way beyond what a language can do, but we extrapolate so much from it.
Emily Brewster: Language does indeed do that. It is one of the things that a language does, the different ways that language are used. It generates these in-groups and out-groups. But I think it is really important to reflect back on that and to recognize that good grammar does not mean ethical. You can have by-the-book grammar and never conjugate a verb incorrectly and be a horribly unethical person. That is wholly possible.
Peter Sokolowski: Exactly.
Ammon Shea: If we go back to Orwell, I don't want to be too harsh in my assessment of him, though I don't think he had any business writing about language, but this was just an essay that he wrote. I think the real problem here was that it's been then kept alive by other people who are trying to turn it into something that it's not and that it's not equipped to handle. I think insofar as these kinds of exhortatory writing advice pieces go, I'm willing to go as far as "you should write better; you should consider your language; you should write carefully." I think these are all fine things to say. I start to shut down when I see the linguistic absolutism: "never do this," and "never do that." There are very few cases that I can think of in which you should never do something. I'm not going to say you should never, of course, because that would contraindicate myself. But there are very few cases in which I would feel comfortable saying, "Never do this."
Peter Sokolowski: If you remove politics from this essay, I find it hard to distinguish it from Strunk & White, another famous book that also offers advice that is poorly constructed from a linguistics point of view.
Ammon Shea: I think there are a lot of problems with Strunk & White, but I feel that Strunk & White is actually more forgiving than this. I mean, Strunk & White, I don't think they say things like, "Never start a sentence with 'and' and 'but.'" They actually have some flexibility, not much. I think Strunk & White is a horrible, dated document that should be burned in a trash heap. It's not as bad as this.
Peter Sokolowski: I can't help but quote our friend Geoffrey Pullum, the great grammarian who refers to Strunk & White as "a toxic little compendium of nonsense."
Ammon Shea: Yes.
Emily Brewster: Yes, and "grammarian," as in a linguist.
Peter Sokolowski: A linguist and professor of grammar and author of maybe the definitive grammar of the English language today but also someone who has a great flare.
Emily Brewster: Yeah, that's a fantastic quote. The reason that this essay, of course, has been promulgated and is the reason we are talking about it today is because people are still talking about it, because people still want guidance on how to write better. I am wondering, Ammon, as a writer, how do you think people should learn to write better? Putting aside, for a minute, the writers who think that they have all this advice to offer to the rest of us, how should people who want to improve their writing do so?
Ammon Shea: Read more. Read writers you like is the way to go about it. For me, one of the main issues with a lot of the standard writing books is even writers that we enjoy, like many people enjoy Stephen King, I think he has some fine characteristics in his writing. When he starts giving writing advice, he had this great passage where he talked about all the times you shouldn't use adverbs. People went through and found dozens and dozens of adverbs in the page that he was talking about, "you shouldn't use adverbs in your writing." It quickly became apparent that he didn't really know what an adverb was in a lot of cases. That kind of writing advice, I think, doesn't work.
Ammon Shea: Now, I know a number of other writers who have read Stephen King and talked about the way that they've been influenced by his writing, the ways that he develops plot, maybe his character development, any number of things, which he does phenomenally well. I think that's a great way to learn writing. If for nothing else, one of my biggest peeves about this kind of language writing is that almost inevitably it is focusing on the negative. Why when we hear people say, "Oh, I care about language," why is that so often synonymous with saying, "I like to talk trash about the way that other people use language"? Why, when people say, "I care about language and let me share with you some of the things that I think are really beautiful about it. These are some fine examples of well-turned phrases," why is that so infrequently something that we come across?
Ammon Shea: I think if you care about language, if you love language, you should be embracing the kind of delectability of it, the fine use of language. Look at some of the nice ones. There's so much beautiful language around us that I think we're really doing ourselves a disservice, not to mention the people who have to listen to us, but doing them a much greater disservice if all we do is focus on the negative.
Emily Brewster: That's totally true. But it's easier to point out the ugliness than it is to quote the sublime. There is gorgeous writing out there that can just be staggering. I think the other thing is that if you want to improve your writing, it's really nice to think that there are some distinct steps that you can take that will then result in you being an improved writer. That's really comforting and much simpler than read, read, read, read, read, read good writers, read over and over and over again, and identify things you really like, and then read something aloud that you have written and see how it feels.
Emily Brewster: Writing well is not about following distinct steps. It's about getting a feel for it. It is an art form. But the really tricky thing about it is that we all use language. Painters have paint as their territory. That's their medium. I don't even have to dabble in it. I mean I paint my bathroom, whatever. I don't have mastery, and I don't think that I have mastery of paint at all, and I don't need to. But as a speaker of English and as somebody who has to write an occasional email or whatever, even if I weren't a lexicographer, all of us, as native speakers, we use this tool, and then some people use it professionally. It's a very tricky territory. Some people use it artistically, and some people use it solely for jargon, and some people use it for political purposes. We need the language to do so much, and it does do all these different things.
Emily Brewster: To get really good at writing creatively or writing in a way that moves people or that convinces people, it feels like it should be simple because you know the tools, you know the words, you know the prepositions, you know the basic sentence structure. But to actually do it in a way that is compelling takes a lot of practice.
Emily Brewster: Let us know what you think about Word Matters. Review us wherever you get your podcasts or email us at [email protected]. You can also visit us at nepm.org. For the Word of the Day and all your general and dictionary needs, visit merriam-webster.com. Our theme music is by Tobias Voigt, artwork by Annie Jacobson. Word Matters is produced by John Voci. For Ammon Shea and Peter Sokolowski, I'm Emily Brewster. Word Matters is produced by Merriam-Webster in collaboration with New England Public Media.
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Politics and the English Language
George orwell, everything you need for every book you read..
The Danger of Intellectual Laziness
In his essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell ’s central point is that bad writing produces bad politics. According to Orwell, a culture full of lazily written nonsense enables governments to control citizens through deceptive messaging. This is because lazy writing leads to lazy thinking—or, rather, to a lack of critical thinking about the messages one receives. To get from bad writing to bad politics, Orwell draws a line from laziness, to nonsensical…
Style as a Political Issue
In “Politics and the English Language,” Orwell pays careful attention to style—that is, how a person says something: the tone, syntax, flow of sentences, metaphors, and choice of words. He argues that the style in which people communicate determines the degree to which their governments can pass off lies as truths. In doing so, Orwell attempts to convince a politically minded audience that the specific way people express themselves—that is, their language itself—is inseparable from…
Honesty, Truth, and Concision
In addition to arguing against linguistic laziness, Orwell argues specifically for a writing process that encourages concision—that is, using as few words as possible to get a point across. Indeed, two of his proposed rules for good writing include: “Never use a long word where a short one will do,” and “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.” Underlining this argument is the idea that reality or facts (or…
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A Collection of Essays - Politics and the English Language Summary & Analysis
Politics and the English Language Summary
Orwell begins by providing five writing samples culled from disparate sources which illustrate later points made in the essay; these samples are clearly noted as bad examples. Orwell then summarizes several common writing errors, including: the use of dying metaphors; false operators - that is, entire phrases that stand for single words; pretentious diction; and, the use of meaningless words. Samples of bad English writing are provided for each. Using bad English is easy, and good English writing demands attention. Orwell then reviews some examples of poor writing, and then develops several strategies for good writing.
In general, bad English voids the language of meaning and, thus, bad English is an excellent vehicle for political speech. Bad English becomes automatic and meaningless, and can be developed and used without effort. When the political truth is...
(read more from the Politics and the English Language Summary)
This website is dedicated to English Literature, Literary Criticism, Literary Theory, English Language and its teaching and learning.
“Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell
George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language,” explains the reasons for the development of the language, stating that the minds of man have increasingly become stagnant.
Introduction in “Politics and the English Language”
George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language,” explains the reasons for the development of the language, stating that the minds of man have increasingly become stagnant by using hackneyed or dying metaphors , trite phrases, meaningless words, and worn-out clichés whereby he shows common errors, but also hopes for healing English writings. He intends to point out several malicious tendencies crept into English writing due to the social and economic transformations in which he states in “Response to Politics and the English Language”that there is a “half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes” (Orwell). It is, he thinks, not correct. This tendency of thinking has made modern English suffer from ambiguity. This inability and this incompetence of using hackneyed phrases is the mistake of the writers who are mechanically engaged in writing empty phrases hardwired into their processes of writing which does not clarify real meanings to the readers.
Analysis of Language in “Politics and the English Language”
Orwell then brings forward five paragraphs written by different writers to support his thesis of “Politics and the English Language”, saying that the reasons for this vagueness are dying metaphors, verbal false limbs, pretentious diction, and meaningless words. When this process is used to create peace “It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” However, he does not mean that it will continue but hopes for the regeneration of language stating that if “one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly” which is a “first step toward political regeneration” (Orwell). Hence, he claims in “Politics and the English Language” it could lead to correct and plain language. Following putting solutions, he rewrites a passage taken from Ecclesiastes and points out the reason for the ugliness of the written language.
Reasons for Using Cliches
The reason behind this is that he states in “Politics and the English Language” that it is a mechanical habit where thinking is not involved because a writer uses these metaphors and phrases when is not delivering a speech or writing very fast and if “if the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking” (Orwell). To show this he has given several metaphors and phrases which he states that sometimes writers even do not understand the meanings of and just write for the sake of writing. However, the language written in this way is he says, “It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else and making the results presentable by sheer humbug” (Orwell). It misses two major points; one is the loss of creativity that he says is to go after the words and the second is that the sentences lack rhythms. By loss of creativity, I mean the writer does not have to be engaged in mental rigorous exercises of inventing new phrases and metaphors which make a piece interesting and alive. This is according to him in “Politics and the English Language” isfound in political writings which are “largely the defence of the indefensible” (Orwell). It is because if these “indefensibles” are defended through plain language, then arguments become highly “brutal for most of the people to face” (Orwell). This is the real truth that political commentators and writers engage in writing vague pieces by using hackneyed phrases and stale metaphors.
Invention of Language
Lastly, the ultimate purpose of Orwell in this essay is to reach out to English writers to convey to them to engage in mental exercises to create and invent language to make it clear instead of engaging in ambiguity. It is also that Orwell himself has shown it clearly in his writing what skillful writing should be stating that “A newly-invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image” (Orwell). He shows this in practice by using the phrase “huge dump of worn-out metaphors” (Orwell) which creates a mental image. In nutshell, in “Politics and the English Language”he has painted an exceptionally good picture of what is writing with modern English writing and how it could be fixed.
Tips for Correct Writing in “Politics and the English Language”
The advice of Orwell in “Politics and the English Language” for writers is to avoid trite and dead metaphors and hackneyed phrases saying that “ all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around” (Orwell). He means that when we write, we choose words first and then try to convey our meanings through them. It is because when we imagine something, we immediately go for an existing language that he means metaphors and phrases and rarely go for inventing new ones. He states that we should rather use words after making their meanings clear through “pictures and sensations.” Later on, a person can choose those words and use them in his language for which he has stated clear rules.
- He advises avoiding already used and printed words, and figures of speech.
- He says that a long word should not be used to replace a short one.
- If a word is useless at some places, cut it out and leave it.
- Do you ornate your language with foreign words and scientific jargon.
- You need to break away from these rules and go to hunt down words instead of relying on the same words.
However, he also states that though these rules are basics, it depends on the change of attitude. The reason is that a writer is entrenched in his style and if he has been writing for a long, it is not easy to change this. After all, the use of language is not to confound the readers but to persuade and convince them and it is not “for concealing or preventing thought” (Orwell). As far as my essay about response to “Politics and the English Language”is cornered, I think the first three points; the use of dying or incompatible metaphors, meaningless words, and inflated style to be avoided to stay to the point as this is the requirement in civil engineering not to use ornate or inflated style.
- Decadent: A thing that is declining or become obsolete
- Pretentious: It means artificial behavior and here it means artificial words or language
- Inflated: It means greater than what is actually justified at the place
- Archaism: This is the method or attitude of using old and obsolete words or expressions
- Evocative: This is a thing that stimulates the memories of the past.
- Orwell, George. “Politics and the English Language.” 1946. Orwell Foundation.com . Accessed Nov. 20, 2022.
Relevant Questions about “Politics and the English Language”
- How does George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” critique the use of language in politics and its impact on thought and communication?
- In “Politics and the English Language,” what specific examples and techniques does Orwell employ to illustrate the degradation of language and its consequences in political discourse?
- What practical advice does George Orwell offer in “Politics and the English Language” to writers and speakers to improve the clarity and integrity of their language in both political and everyday contexts?
- “The Story of an Hour”: Irony
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado”
- Symbolism in “A Hunger Artist” by Kafka
- “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine”
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Choose one point from Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” with which you agree and one point with which you disagree. Include reasons for your arguments.
There are many valid points in Orwell's essay with which we agree. The main points relating to politics and English language are follows,
I agree that the people are now paying less attention to the grammar of English , people are finding ways to simplify the daily communication .
They paying less attention to the grammar makes English look a different language than what it was initially.
I disagree when Orwell's when he writes about the meaning less words, he explains that some words used in stories are meaning less to the reader, while as a story book reader fan I think that each word or set of words ease the imaging of story.
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📚 Related Questions
1.Choose the word in the following sentence that functions as a predicate adjective. ________________________________ The talent show was really excellent. talent show really excellent Choose the word in the following sentence that functions as the indirect object. 2.My father gave me a new football. father me new football 3.Choose the word in the following sentence that functions as an adjective. The birthday present was a dollhouse. dollhouse birthday present was 4.Choose the word in the following sentence that functions as the verb. My dog just brought Dad a biscuit. brought just Dad buscuit
1. Really. Really is the predicate adjective, because it describes how excellent the talent show was.
2. Me. The indirect object is typically the recipient
3. The adjective in the sentence is birthday, because it describes what type of present it was.
4. Brought is the verb because it is an action.
26. They (go) ___________home after they (finish) _____________ their work. 27. In my country, it often (snow) snows a lot in winter. 28. My father _________(be) an engineer. He __________(work) for the company. 29. She (win) ________ the gold medal in 1986 30. Mary and Mr. Steve ________(come) from england. They _______(are) my close friends. 31. What time you _______________(have) lunch everyday? 32. When he came to the stadium, the match (already/ begin)_______________. 33. She ________(run) downstairs and opened the front door. 34. It __________(rain) a lot yesterday evening, so I ________(get) wet. 35. I _____________(just/finish) writing this book . I feel very happy. 36. Yesterday, John (go) ______________to the store before he (go) ____home. 37. He has written the report for three days. He ________________(write) its conclusion now. 38. Peter and I _____________(be) in front of the computer since 7 o’clock. 39. She used to be a winner. She __________(win) the first prize five years ago. 40. We ____________(fly) to New York since last summer. 41. Before I (watch) __________TV, I (do) ________________ my homework. 42. She ________(like) cooking. She ____________(cook) now. 43. She ______________(learn) piano for three months. 44. I ______________(receive) a letter from my old friend last week. 45. She _________(wash) cloth twice a week. 46. We ____________(do) exercise 2A on page 20 right now. 47. Look! It ______________(rain) heavily. 48. . After they (go)____________,I (sit) _________ down and (rest)________. 49. They _______________(watch) TV at 4:00 p.m yesterday. 50. He _________(open) the door, __________(enter) the room, and _________(break) something.
26. went, finihed
7 points is not really enough man........
My neighbours.....loud music all night, so I......much sleep. a. were playing / didn't get b.played / weren't get c.was playing / got d.were played / get e.were played / go
its litterly the only one that make sense
It's likely that you are aware of the distinction between the words were and was: were is the second-person singular past tense of to be, whereas was the first-person singular past tense of to be. Thus, option A is correct.
What is the use of were in the sentence?
Use were for all plural forms, including the second person past tense indicative. “You were standing the entire game,” and “They were in the stadium.”
The past tense of be1 is were, which is both the plural and second-person singular. In specific patterns, such as conditional clauses and sentences following the verb “want,” were is occasionally used in place of “was.”
Use the subjunctive mood in both one and plural forms for hypothetical or fantastical statements, such as “If they were to bring back popcorn, I would eat it.”
Therefore, My neighbours ( were playing ) loud music all night , so I ( didn't get) much sleep.
Learn more about were here:
what kind of sentence is this? If the members of our team had cooperated the opposition which was well trained but uninspired complex sentence compound sentence run-on sentence sentence fragment simple sentence
complex sentence i believe that's the answer
Details : what kind of sentence is this?If the members of our team had cooperated
is anyone good with formating a mla work cited page
here it is. center the heading and format the citations with indents on every line except the first, like a reverse paragraph. on docs you can do enter, then tab.
Dugan, Kelli. “6-Year-Old Girl KILLED, 5 ADULTS Wounded in DC SHOOTING.” KIRO 7 News
Seattle, KIRO 7 News Seattle, 18 July 2021, www.kiro7.com/news/trending/6-year-old-girl-killed-5-adults-wounded-dc-shooting/EUOYPFK7WNC7XGJYGM7VU7MRGM/.
Jiménez, Jesus. “A Girl's Shooting Death in Washington Leaves a Community on Edge.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 19 July 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/07/18/us/nyiah-courtney-shooting-nationals-washington-dc.html.
what kind of sentence is this? Recognizing a problem is the first step toward solving it complex sentence compound sentence run-on sentence sentence fragment simple sentence
simple sentence i think
apie Critically discuss why social distancing is regarded as one of the key measures to prevent the spread of corona virus. (3X2) (6)
Yes, Social Distancing is one of the key measures to prevent the corona virus.
This is because when we stay far away from each other, no matter we are infected the organisms will not get in contact with the other person.
When I .............. him, he......running. a.meet/ have already been b.meets /already had been c.met/ had already been d.met/ have been already e.met / has been already
The answer to your question is c.
Details : When I .............. him, he......running. a.meet/ have already
15 POINTS!! what is a book/ movie that has the same theme as "Everyone can make a difference"
the story of the lion and the mouse
The moral of the story is that mercy brings its reward and that there is no being so small that it cannot help.
In the story, a lion(symbolizes the powerful), decides to spare the life of a mouse(symbolizes the ignored or the powerless). And the underlying message of the fable is to value even your smallest friends. because they can help you when you need it the most
To practice writing descriptively, improve and/or add to the following sentences to make the story come to life. Virtual instruction had begun.
Virtual Instruction had begun.
Now the era has emerged that has changed many lives, this is the era of virtual instructions, a few years back this idea was not so sound but now the time has come when this idea has become a useful practice for many Organisations, Schools , Colleges and other Institutional Organisations.
Internet is available to almost every individual and now they can get the knowledge from a distant tutor, in the back days this seemed impossible.
Now many Organisations have gone virtual, they instruct their employees virtually and thus as a result are saving much time and expenses .
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Hi! I need you guys to help me with this English essay and I'll post it in the comments!
sure but what is the topic
What first aid did kunwar singh give Har singh ?
When the tiger attacked Har Singh, his stomach was ripped off the attack and Kunwar Singh made sure that he kept Har Singh in his senses so that he could be taken to the hospital for getting well. He sews up his stomach and provided him with a drink of medicine so that his pain could be subsided.
Details : What first aid did kunwar singh give Har singh ?
what is symbolist in literature A. the comparison of things and happenings B. the portrayal of objects as living things C. the use of things or situations for a deeper meaning D. the use of incidents to warn readers of some calamity
the potrayal of object as living thing
Is this written in standard English? There have been rumors of a strike.
lack of work more experience in a job site
is this written in standard English? All of the students in the class know one another
they don't know each other
Comparison of the cost of adding two desktops vs. one or two laptops. Comparison of the cost of replacing the modem with a router/modem. Comparison the cost of building a WAN vs. a LAN or a VPN. Summary of the total cost of maintaining your home office as the only computing space for your three-worker company. Compare this cost with the option of building a network that includes your home office and two satellite locations.
The cost of laptop and desktop differs from each other. The cost of replacing modem with another modem or router will also be an expense to the business.
Laptop cost $890
Desktop cost $1,130
while a used modem is $20
WAN is $0.02/GB
LAN is $20,000/year
This expense is basic in both the setups
Laptops $890 * 3 = $2670
Home Based additional expense
Modem $50 * 3 = $150
WAN $0.02/GB * 950,000 = $19,000
Building a Network would be less costly.
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Details : Comparison of the cost of adding two desktops vs. one or two laptops.Comparison
used: 2. What, according to kunwar singh, are the two things one needs in order to walk fearlessly in the jungle?
Lol i had learned it but i forgot sorry
Circle the letter in front of the correct meaning for each root word. Then, write two words that contain the root word. Bio A. Sea B. far C. life Pend A.one B. before C. hang path A. feeling B. fear C. all chron A.time B. fear C. study of port A. Carry B. out C. in
Match the following. 1. suffix changed verb to a noun 2. suffix meaning one who 3. suffix shows a quality or action 4. suffix changed noun to a verb 5. suffix used to compare two things 6. suffix changed noun to adjective 7. suffix changed adjective to adverb 8. word that maintains its original part of speech after adding the suffix 9. suffix used to compare three things 10. suffix that can change an adjective to a noun friendlier childish -ence quietly -dom -ant -est liquefy confidant -er
When we match the descriptions to the options, we have:
A suffix is a group of letters added to a word's ending . It changes that word into a new one, often changing its category as well - for instance, making a noun out of a verb.
Let's briefly explain each of the answers above:
1. "Confidant" is a noun formed by adding the suffix -ant to the verb "confide".
2. The suffix -ant seen above means "one who" performs an action.
3. The suffix -ence indicates the state of possessing a quality or performing an action. Example: ignorance.
4. "Liquefy" is a verb formed by adding the suffix -fy/efy/ify to the noun "liquid".
5. The suffix -er is added to an adjective in order to compare two elements in the sentence: She is smarter than her sister.
6. "Childish" is an adjective formed by adding the suffix -ish to the noun "child".
7. The adverb "quietly" is formed by adding the suffix -ly to the adjective "quiet".
8. "Friendlier" is an adjective formed from "friendly", which is also an adjective. The suffix did not change the category of the word.
9. The suffix -est is added to an adjective in order to make its superlative form, which extends the comparison to more than just two elements. Example: She is the smartest of the group.
10. The suffix -dom can be added to an adjective in order to change it to a noun. Example: freedom.
In conclusion, understanding the use of suffixes can enrich our vocabulary and comprehension of meanings.
Learn more about suffixes here:
Here are the answers.
IV. Use the correct form of the word given in each sentence. (1pt)1. Fishing is an outdoor ……… …….my father likes best. (act) 2. My grandfather can read …………………………….without glasses. (good) 3. You should do some ……….for the tests. (revise) 4. She is speaking … …………………because she has a sore throat. (soft) V. Rewrite each of the following sentences in another way so that it means almost the same as the one printed before it. (2 pts) 1. “Don’t make too much noise.”, my mom said. My mom asked me ………………… 2. His father no longer smokes cigarette. His father used ………… 3. “Can you come early on Sunday?”, the officer said to me. The officer told ………………………… 4. She can read very fast. She is……………………………………………………………………
SEE THE IMAGE FOR SOLUTION
HOPE IT HELPS
HAVE A GREAT DAY
Details : IV. Use the correct form of the word given in each sentence. (1pt)1.
what is the synonyms of good
of high quality
of a high standard
up to scratch
up to the mark
up to standard
of the highest quality
of the highest standard
Imagine that you are Phyllis. Write a letter to your father giving an account of how you spend your day in the countryside, and how you feel when you see the Green Dragon rush past you. Don't forget to tell him how much you miss him.
From which server do you play free fire my friend
Which two words from the passage help the reader understand the meaning of station as it is used in the passage? originally private fixed body reduced
There are various words in the English language which provides the same meanings. The two words that help understand the meaning of the word station are explained below.
The word station explains the set, position or duty.
From the words of choice available Originally and Fixed
These words explain the meanings of Station.
Fixed explains the nature of station that is the duty
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Answer: fixed & originally
who is the main protagonist in Romeo and Juliet
Romeo Montague is the male protagonist of William Shakespeare's tragedy, Romeo and Juliet
Hope this helps
Details : who is the main protagonist in Romeo and Juliet
Answer please I need the answer
Answer: I am sorry I can not see it.
Explanation: If you could copy and paste that or take a better photo I might be able to.
In which area did the Seminole and Choctaw peoples live in approximately 1500? A.) the Southeast B.) the Plains C.) the Northeast D.) the Great Basin
the plainsfjfh ft hrhrhrhfjhfhfhfhfhdhdd
IV. Use the correct form of the word given in each sentence. (1pt) 1. Fishing is an outdoor ……… …….my father likes best. (act) 2. My grandfather can read …………………………….without glasses. (good) 3. You should do some ……….for the tests. (revise) 4. She is speaking … …………………because she has a sore throat. (soft) V. Rewrite each of the following sentences in another way so that it means almost the same as the one printed before it. (2 pts) 1. “Don’t make too much noise.”, my mom said. My mom asked me ………………… 2. His father no longer smokes cigarette. His father used ………… 3. “Can you come early on Sunday?”, the officer said to me. The officer told ………………………… 4. She can read very fast. She is………………………………………………………………………………..
2. Well? Not sure.
1. not to make too much noise.
2. to smoke cigarettes
3. to come early on sunday
4. A very fast reader
fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verbs given in the brackets ................. 1. one of the boys _________ (be) a good student 2. The policemen _______(has) solved the case
1. being 2. had its correct answer
Details : fill in the blanks with the correct form of the verbs given in the
What does the word ethereal mean in the phrase "grew more ethereal as they rose"? In the scarlet letter
As the rose grew it got more delicate and pretty
Not sure if that helps
And I quote from the blessed dictionary:
" extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world. "
Not a common word, tho one packed with meaning, it's often used in older English and literature.
In my city, there are many organizations for the youth who want to contribute their enthusiasm to the society. My classmates and I joined the (1)………………Union Club two months (2)………………We went to the area where most poor families live to help them tidy (3)………………their gardens and houses. We (4)………………help to build new houses for the homeless. Our club works very effectively and attracts many (5)……………… to take (6)………………in because it is not necessary for members to have any experience in the job. We (7)………………only their willingness and (8)………………for the miserable. Note: enthusiasm : sự nhiệt tình /willingness: sự tự nguyện / the miserable: người bất hạnh 1. a. Young b. Youth c. Youthful d. Younger 2. A. yesterday b. past c. last d. ago 3. A. in b. down c. up d. to 4. A. and b. then c. also d. but 5. A. volunteers b. voluntary c. voluntarily d. volunteer 6. A. past b. part c. pass d. passed 7. A. need b. are needing c. needs d. needed 8. A. like b. love c. hate d. dislike
- emily wants to know how green, blue and red color light affects plant growth compared to natural light. (Hint: what light affects the plant the most) Form hypothesis and design an experiment. Make sure identify the control, independent (manipulated) variable and dependent (responding) variable. Be detailed
- "And" is a coordinating conjunction.True or False
- A grocery store is having a "buy 2 get 1 free" promotion on their six-pack cans of orange juice. If Mrs. VanCleave decides to take advantage of this promotion everyday for a week, how many cans of orange juice will she have at the end of the week?
- Divide (3x^4-2x^3+4x-5) / (x^2+4)
- 1.Choose the word in the following sentence that functions as a predicate adjective.________________________________The talent show was really excellent.talentshowreallyexcellentChoose the word in the following sentence that functions as the indirect object.2.My father gave me a new football.fathermenewfootball3.Choose the word in the following sentence that functions as an adjective.The birthday present was a dollhouse.dollhousebirthdaypresentwas4.Choose the word in the following sentence that functions as the verb.My dog just brought Dad a biscuit.broughtjustDadbuscuit
- tell me this i will make you brainlist
- Whats 782,835 divided by 5?
- 2. What is the length of AB? Round youranswer to the nearest hundredth.
- A rectangular paperboard measuring 29in long and 20in wide has a semicircle cut out of it, as shown below.Find the area of the paperboard that remains. Use the value 3.14 for , and do not round your answer. Be sure to include the correct unit in your answer.
- 26. They (go) ___________home after they (finish) _____________ their work.27. In my country, it often (snow) snows a lot in winter.28. My father _________(be) an engineer. He __________(work) for the company.29. She (win) ________ the gold medal in 198630. Mary and Mr. Steve ________(come) from england. They _______(are) my close friends.31. What time you _______________(have) lunch everyday?32. When he came to the stadium, the match (already/ begin)_______________.33. She ________(run) downstairs and opened the front door.34. It __________(rain) a lot yesterday evening, so I ________(get) wet.35. I _____________(just/finish) writing this book . I feel very happy.36. Yesterday, John (go) ______________to the store before he (go) ____home.37. He has written the report for three days. He ________________(write) its conclusion now.38. Peter and I _____________(be) in front of the computer since 7 oclock.39. She used to be a winner. She __________(win) the first prize five years ago.40. We ____________(fly) to New York since last summer.41. Before I (watch) __________TV, I (do) ________________ my homework.42. She ________(like) cooking. She ____________(cook) now.43. She ______________(learn) piano for three months.44. I ______________(receive) a letter from my old friend last week.45. She _________(wash) cloth twice a week.46. We ____________(do) exercise 2A on page 20 right now.47. Look! It ______________(rain) heavily.48. . After they (go)____________,I (sit) _________ down and (rest)________.49. They _______________(watch) TV at 4:00 p.m yesterday.50. He _________(open) the door, __________(enter) the room, and _________(break) something.
- HELP meeee plllzzzz !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Find the volume of this object.Use 3 for it.Volume of a CylinderV= Tr2hVolume of a ConeV= Tr?38 in4 in13 inV~ [?]in3
- ANSWER AS FAST A POSSIBLE PLS! 156-3^2x5-8^2
- Describe what is contained in a credit report
- major arteries of the Face
- HELLO HELP ASAP ATTACHING PIC BELOW ITS KHAN
- 1. What is the midpoint of AB?
- A 210 Ohm resistor uses 9.28 W of power. How much current flows through the resistor? (unit=A)
- Give three equivalent rates that describe the top speed of a tuna.
- My neighbours.....loud music all night, so I......much sleep.a. were playing / didn't getb.played / weren't getc.was playing / got d.were played / gete.were played / go