George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” and Martha Brockenbrough’s “Does IM Make U Dum?”
Using the English language effectively can be difficult at times. You must consider many factors: who your audience is, what kind of tone you wish to convey, the message you are attempting to get across, and any kind of lasting effect wished upon a reader’s mind. After reading through two essays, Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” and Brockenbrough’s “Does IM Make U Dum?” each reveals different mindsets about the advancement and usage of the English language. On one hand, Orwell seems to advocate the simplification of speech and writing. Rather than seemingly sagacious phrases, useless terms, and reborative wordplay, he believes that type of overzealousness (or as he says “modern English”) is essentially a disease used by nescient writers. After all, if one cannot be understood, what is the point of speaking or writing? Brockenbrough takes a similar standpoint, but from another extreme – she attempts to compel those currently abusing the English language in unfathomable, acerebral ways to change their methods for the most part. Orwell’s and Brockenbrough’s approaches vary greatly. Here we shall investigate the differences in three key areas: their message, audience, and desired outcomes.
Orwell begins his essay by examining five existing works chosen seemingly at random, but with a purpose that becomes clearer as he explores the texts further. He deduces that the authors of said writings do not know what they seek to convey, based on their overwordiness, lack of clarity, and clouding the minds of their readers. For example, one of his comparisons shows a then-common passage of Ecclesiastes that is understandable by the normal man, then proceeds to follow it up with a conversion into “modern English” which is so full of ambiguity, it has to be reread more than once to grasp its meaning. He then goes on to show that this is a common theme for numerous literary works that have been produced recently (relative to his time period (1903-1950)). Through this, he displays that the English language being used is so disconnected from society, that at its current rate, no one will be able to understand each other in the near future. He argues for the simplification of English: why use a large word when a small one will do? Why use an uncommon word when a common one will do? Why confuse a reader instead of providing a clear and precise meaning when merely glanced over? He does not seek to undermine the development of the language, but rather to advance it into a state so it can be an ideal form of commonly understood communication, as languages are wont to do.
Conversely, Brockenbrough takes a different stance, but it is coupled with small echoes of similarity. She believes the English language is being mistreated by current society as a whole by citing abbreviations, shorthand, lack of grammar, poor spelling, and incomplete phrases as reason that could lead anyone to want to defenestrate themselves. In contrast to Orwell’s views, Brockenbrough argues that English is being oversimplified to the point that it is almost the complete opposite of Orwell’s fears: that understanding a reading or text will be difficult, based on the lack of large or uncommon words, the lack of words entirely and reliance on abbreviations, to the point that understanding is impossible. She believes that IMing will lead to an underdeveloped, undereducated world, since, as we all know, bad habits easily ingrain themselves into human minds. Performing the same repetitive task leads to your brain believing that that is the correct way to do a thing. Your subconscious accepts this as truth and you begin to replace your former, correct use of language with a poorly constructed sense of accuracy that can only continue to move downhill. Incidentally, there is a redeeming light of IMing: it is almost a language in itself and can be...