[Orwell] Politics and the English Language

Dated Apr 1, 1946; last modified on Thu, 02 Sep 2021

But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in intensified form. The language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easy for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible.

Standard phrases already have rhythm. They are a convenient shortcut for lazy communicators.

Pretentious diction to make the banal appear profound, the biased seem scientifically impartial and sordid events masquerade as dignified.

Some words are not meant to point to any discoverable object, e.g. praising a country as democratic.

We need to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way round. The first line of defense is not to define your problematic terms, but to see whether you can think without using those terms at all.

If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You can’t speak of any dialects, and when you make a stupid remark, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.

Passive voice obscures reality. “The subjects were administered Progenitorivox”. In reality, the scientist is there, and the subjects are students and the Progenitorivox was handed over with instructions.

If a metaphor doesn’t evoke an image, don’t use it. Tired/Dying metapahors are a lazy man’s game. A word itself can have the destructive force of cliché; a word itself can carry the poison of a cached thought.

Meaning does not excuse impact. Be consciously aware of the experiences that words create. “AI should be developed through democratic processes” can’t be excused from signaling the audience to applaud. Furthermore, it’s as vague as they come.

Political language has come to consist mainly of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, inhabitants driven from the countryside, the cattle are machine-gunned, the huts are set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called PACIFICATION. See also TRANSFER OF POPULATION, ELIMINATION OF UNDESIRABLE ELEMENTS

Politics and the English Language. Orwell, George. http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit . 1946. Accessed Mar 27, 2021.