Politics and the English Language: What Orwell Meant Pt1

The English language is a rather volatile subject; constantly and incessantly changing and shifting, as adequately supplied in the essay, ‘Politics and the English Language,’ by George Orwell. In his essay, Orwell comments on the degrading nature of modern English and accuses politics for deteriorating the dialects of English used now-a-days.

The way we act and speak is generally constructed by a consensus in our society, so naturally, our language keeps changing with the change in the general consensus. To emphasize this, Orwell states that the decline of language is ultimately associated with political and economic causes.

Consensus in a society is made by people, and these people are highly swayed by the laws that they abide by, i.e. the politics they follow. Orwell exemplifies his statement on the role of politics in the decline of English language by providing five passages that believes are corrupted by the use of modern English.

In the first passage by Professor Herald Laski, Orwell tells the readers about the counterproductive effect of using, “superfluous” and, “jargon” words. Professor Laski’s passage uses, as said by Orwell, “five negatives in fifty words.” This usage fails to create a clear picture of what Professor Laski was trying to say.

Furthermore, in the second passage Orwell accuses Professor Lancelot Hogben for misusing the word, ‘egregious,’ and says that Professor Hogben simply did not put in the effort of looking that word in the dictionary.

While stating these mistakes, Orwell’s voice is not that of mockery or condescendence, but of an understanding cultivated by making similar mistakes.

George Orwell does not simply state these mistakes but also provides legitimate explanations for why these mistakes were made.  He says that this was due to the excessive use of worn-out idioms, pretentious words, passive voice and unneeded metaphors that accompany modern English.

The author of this essay condemns vagueness in written and spoken prose. He says that in order to convey the genuine image of what is in the writer’s mind, the writers must first paint a picture of the object in his mind and then deliver it to his audience by using everyday English words. Precision, according to Orwell, is an important element that should be regularly incorporated into our writing.

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