George Orwell’s article, “Politics and the English Language,” explores the increasing misuse of the English language and its possible political causes. When I first saw the title “Politics,” I was afraid to read the article. The first word of the title is such a sensitive one in my mind, since it always seems to involve argument. I also fear my knowledge about the subject is too limited, even when I translate the word into Chinese. Despite my initial discomfort, I have tried my best to use proper English and not, as Orwell terms them, “meaningless words” (p.108) to analyze the reading and more specifically George Orwell’s argument that our bad application of the English language can be reversed. I agree partially with George Orwell in that people often make mistakes in using English, however I also think he is too harsh in his criticism and lets his personal political inclination pervades his objectivity. In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell describes several bad language habits existent in the English-speaking world today. These habits include dying metaphors, operators, pretentious diction, and meaningless words, and he mentions that those “bad habits” appear in prose construction. He states that the worst part of modern writing is making the results presentable by “gumming together long strips of words”(p.111), which have already been set in order. It is a pretentious, “Latinized” (p.108) style. He believes that such habits have a negative affect on our society’s progress. Meaning in language, he says, is often deliberately manipulated. For instance, slack or hack writers, instead of doing their real job of clarifying meaning, open channels through which “the ready made phrases come crowding in”(WSU). “They will construct your sentences for you--even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent--and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself” (WSU). George Orwell is so against staleness of imagery and verbal imprecision because they lead to vagueness, so that true meaning in language is lost. Additionally, there is a strong connection between corrupted language and political manipulation, for people can be persuaded of anything. These are some of the dangers that we should be aware of in the English language today. In addition to presenting the mistakes of English-speakers, Orwell also reflects on how to improve them. He believes that there are certain ways to better the bad habits of English-speakers. With specific attention to how the minority population thinks and writes, Orwell even outlines how to change the main rules and styles of English. In the end of the article, George Orwell lists rules that cover most causes, and I think they are useful especially for someone who is in the earliest stage of writing:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech, which you are used to seeing in print. ii.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. iv.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. vi.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous. (p.119)
According to George Orwell, if English speakers follow these simple rules and become more conscious of their mistakes, they can improve their hold on the English language and remove bad habits. George Orwell also recommends that we think carefully and ask ourselves certain questions before writing. I learned that if you wish to be a scrupulous writer, you should ask yourself the four questions plus two extra questions before starting to write. “What am I trying to say?” Think about what are the main ideas or aspects before writing; don’t write an essay without your thoughts. “What words will express it? ” This indicates the necessity of using proper words to...
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