Orwell begins his essay stating that the English Language is on a decline, or that the collective works, literary pieces, speeches, and common conversations in English contain less innovation, coherency, and therefore power than ever before. He also identifies a principal issue concerning English’s advancement; though any scholar is aware that English is suffering abasement by it’s native speakers, most believe no act of prevention will bring success. Rather, Orwell writes that most consider the act of preserving and resurrecting English’s integrity is hopeless, as the natural state of language is not as a tool but a separate entity outside our control.
George Orwell goes on to say that English’s adulteration cannot be blamed by any singular writer or group. Instead, Orwell argues that language exists in a feedback loop with itself, whereby unrefined or uninspired writing creates lower and lower standards with which English is upheld across the nation. To solve this unfortunate echo chamber, Orwell says that users of English, particularly English writers, should avoid a few main issues.
To exemplify his points on English language abasement, Orwell incorporates five quotes into his essay. Though he explicitly states they are not meant to be of the worst quality, Orwell clarifies that he has chosen them to identify two principal issues concerning English overall. Specifically, each of Orwell’s included examples show that too many English writers write indifferently vaguely, or that they are apathetic to coherency. Simply states, Orwell says that English prose and political writing is composed to sound pleasing but frequently does not adequately explain a thesis.
Next Orwell goes on to identify general issues in English writing and political rhetorical which he names and elaborates upon. The first are “dying metaphors”, or over-used phrases such as “Achilles’ heel”. Orwell explains that because these phrases are so frequently employed, they cease to convey significance to a reader or listener. Furthermore, he argues that because these phrases are so far removed from their original use, or that because so few people remember what the phrases were meant to mean in the first place, they are of little conventional use. Moreover and perhaps most embarrassingly, Orwell shows examples of augmented metaphors or phrases in which a word is slightly changed so that it sounds like the original phrase but something has been altered so that the phrase inevitably makes no sense.
Secondly Orwell talks of “operatives or verbal false limbs”, or the increasing English tendency to make verbs phrases. For example, he says English writers and political speakers use phrases such as “render inoperative, militate against, make contact with” when those could be replaced with single words. He also writes that the passive voice is in abundance, creating needlessly wordy sentences.
Orwell then illustrates “pretentious diction”, stating that English writers and political speakers use erudite word choice, whether in English or with the incorporation of foreign phrases, in order to make ordinary or abhorrent statements appear more interesting or justified. This is a danger, he explains, because such an action is not only less coherent and direct but also an act of manipulation. Furthermore, Orwell insists that foreign phrases are too far removed from their original context to convey accurate meaning to an English audience. Instead, he states that new English words should be invented if necessary. In this way, English may continue to evolve rather than stagnate and atrophy.
Lastly Orwell attacks meaningless words, or words which have no specific definition and therefore are too broad to create any real impact or meaning. In particular, he writes that English political rhetoric incorporates jargon the typical American does not understand or does not agree upon. Thus, Orwell argues, political leaders may employ this diction in order to confuse or exploit the general public.
In presenting this essay, Orwell illuminates the public of simple to use issues surfacing within the English language. A revolutionary, George Orwell’s reaction to such problems offer assistance and education by which he believed English could grow, both in literary fields and within the frame of political rhetoric.
“George Orwell: Politics and the English Language.” George Orwell – Eric Arthur Blair. Novels. Essays. Articles. Reviews. Biography. Bibliography. Web. 07 Nov. 2010. .