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Summary of Politics and the English Language

By clairelove3 Mar 24, 2014 958 Words
Politics and the English Language Analysis
In “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell argues against the common belief that language grows with and adapts to the changing times, there being nothing any individual can do about it. He explains that the decline of the English language comes from a never ending cycle of foolish thoughts giving way to sloppy writing, which eventually leads to more foolish thoughts. Throughout his essay, Orwell connects with his readers by establishing his credibility, using emotional appeals, and providing logical evidence of how the English language is continuously declining and how writers could slow, and possibly stop, this process.

To emphasize the complexity of the rules of writing, Orwell utilizes parallel structure, often interlacing parallel structures to keep the reader on his/her toes and give the body unity. His parallel structures also assist in straying away from repetition of ideas and a monotonous tone. Although Orwell states that “correct grammar and syntax…are of no importance,” one can see that he most definitely attempts to engage his readers through syntax and grammar (109). His back-and-forth writing between his body paragraphs and his self contradiction supports the rule he later introduces: “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous” (112). His contradictions of himself may at first leave some readers puzzled, but ultimately establishes the concept that a writer should not be afraid to break conventions to make a point.

George Orwell, in paragraph five, goes on to express his disappointment towards writers who lack originality by using common and overused metaphors, implying that they really do not care for what they are writing about what-so-ever. He discusses the common misinterpretations of old metaphors that are still used in today’s works, explaining that if the writer knows it will be misunderstood, he/she should not incorporate the phrase. Orwell continues to express disdain as he explains that several writers no longer use simple verbs, but rather phrases that involve passive voice. He looks down on the elimination of simple conjunctions and prepositions, accusing writers of focusing too much on symmetry and too little on climatic ends of sentences.

As Orwell continuous his contemptuous writing in paragraph six, he scolds writers for overusing pretentious diction, saying that they “are used to dress up simple statements,” “dignify the sordid processes of international politics,” and “give an air of culture and elegance” (109). He also expresses his disgust with words that add no particular meaning, like sentimental, natural, or vitality (110). Many political words, Orwell also states, are often used improperly and dishonestly. He explains that overusing pretentious diction and meaningless words only result in sloppy and vague writing, looking down on the lack of originality.

In paragraphs 9, 10, and 11, Orwell leads into a translation of “good English” into “modern English.” He analyzes the lack of concreteness in the modern English version in comparison to the good English version. He describes modern writing as “gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug” (111). Orwell states that writers choose to save mental effort by using vague and meaningless phrases and words, going back to the quotes he included earlier to prove his point. By the end of paragraph 12, it is very clear that “ready-made phrases” are not what George Orwell would like to see in any particular passage.

In paragraph 13, Orwell states that political writing is bad writing, unless the specific writer is somewhat outside of the box with his/her views. He compares a political speaker to a dummy as he discusses the speaker’s repetition of the same phrases over and over again, the speaker being in a sort of unconsciousness. Orwell goes on in paragraph 14 to describe political speech as a sort of pacification for political issues across the world, even naming a few like British rule in India. He then explains how people, even professors, use unnecessary political speech to ineffectively get their points across.

Orwell continues his discussion of the cycle involving thought ruining language and language ruining thought, expressing his concern that what is convenient is not always what is correct. He even claims that the very essay he has written undoubtedly has the simple mistakes he has discussed. Orwell uses a quote from The Allies to prove his point once again, also explaining that the only way to end this abuse of the English language is to be constantly on guard. As Orwell restates his opinion, he poses a counterargument: “language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions” (114). However, he produces several solutions to solve the issue directly after the counterargument is stated. Orwell whole-heartedly explains that the world could exterminate itself of the over-used metaphors, ready-made phrases, and filler words easily, it only takes a small group to get rid of them. In paragraph 18, he makes it clear that ending the use of worn out phrases and words has no relevance grammar or syntax. He goes on to restate his point and how it can be avoided.

As Orwell comes to a close, he restates basically every main point in his essay, declaring that major attitude change is necessary before the revival of the English language can happen. Orwell explains that he considers “language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought” (115). He suggests writers simplify their works to steer clear of stupid and meaningless remarks. In his conclusion, Orwell urges writers not to change everything at once, but to change one aspect at a time, and to work hard enough to rid the English language of the useless, ready-made phrases that writers so often resort to.

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