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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 presents a list of corrupting habits that cause writers to think poorly and thus write poorly.
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).
He moves on to present different examples of language that reflect different habits of thinking.
He selects examples from different academic texts, political pamphlets and a letter to the editor of the .
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.Summary Orwell opens by discussing the value of working against the decay of the English language. Thus, if it is corroding, this is a human-controlled rather than simply natural process. In clear terms, Orwell describes the cycle in which the poor use of language becomes reinforced by that poor use.He uses a clear analogy to describe this cycle, stating that “a man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks” (251).When a person becomes lazy they allow their language to think for them.In this way, political writers end up following a party line.In this essay, Orwell argues that the English language becomes “ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” To illustrate his point, Orwell cites writing from two professors, a Communist pamphlet, an essay on psychology in All these examples, Orwell argues, have two common faults: staleness of imagery and lack of precision.In his follow-up analysis, he discusses general characteristics of bad writing, including pretentious diction and meaningless words.Known for its poignancy and illustrative metaphor, he reduces the Ecclesiastical passage to a baffling convolution of words that seems to barely mean the same thing as the original.By adding in larger, more flexible words and removing all the imagery, he removes all the clarity from the work and makes it much harder to understand, all under the guise of updating the language.This kind of language, overly fraught with large words without conveying significant meaning, is exceptionally susceptible to being used in propaganda.Orwell believes that this type of speech is inherently insincere, and that is why it is so useful as propaganda.