ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7 Blesok no. 21 | volume IV | June-July, 2001
Blesok no. 21,
Politics and the English Language
Occasionally an essay becomes a classic, usually because it makes an important statement about some subject with unusual effectiveness. Such is the case with this essay, written in the 1940s. Here George Orwell, author of 1984, discusses the condition of the English language and the ways in which it has seriously deteriorated. He concludes by suggesting a number of remedies to help restore the language to a healthier state.
Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language—so the argument runs—must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.
Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile here are five specimens of the English language as it
"Blesok" editions 01-84 are also available at CEEOL web site.
By purchasing our titles, you are directly supporting our activities. Thank you!
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10-11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61-62 63 64 65 66 67-68 69 70 71-73 74 75 76 77-79 80-81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89