Politics And The English Language
Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki is embarrassed for only having recently read George Orwell's 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language.
No apologies needed, Guy. You've done a service by pointing illiterates like The Agitator's editors to Orwell's timeless piece.
We urge our readers to sit down this weekend with your morning cup of coffee or tea and savor this essay instead of skim the newspaper. While Orwell's concrete examples of writing “ugliness” — dying metaphors, lack of simple verbs, pretentious diction, meaningless words — are dated, the underlying truths endure.
A few selections …
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel … Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style …
When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases … one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them …
If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to making over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity …
In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible … Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness …
Political language … is designed to mke lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Now Orwell offers suggestions to writers who want to write better, but you must read the essay for those.
Roger & Tom
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