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Politics and the English Language

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  6,477 ratings  ·  651 reviews
'Politics and the English Language' is widely considered Orwell's most important essay on style. Style, for Orwell, was never simply a question of aesthetics; it was always inextricably linked to politics and to truth.'All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.When the general atmosphere is bad, langua ...more
Paperback, 24 pages
Published January 3rd 2013 by Penguin Classics (first published April 1946)
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Mervyn Pitchford Hi Deland.
The phrase above relates to political language. If you listen carefully to
the words spoken by politicians they never promise anything speci…more
Hi Deland.
The phrase above relates to political language. If you listen carefully to
the words spoken by politicians they never promise anything specific, as any failure to deliver is an obvious error in their judgement. In the world of politicians, people who make errors of judgement should not have any influence, so they avoid telling the truth, if not actually telling lies.Thus they can't be blamed. They use words to create an impression, look back at the text and you can find examples of this. "The soviet press is the freest in the world." It was not.
Today, a common example of a deceptive, and to my mind abhorrent phrase is "going forward", when chosen to mean " in the future."
Going forward means making progress in the desired or intended direction, and progress is the betterment of a process or situation. You are intended to take this "progress" as the meaning in order to encourage you to take the feeling that things will be better. They don't want you to get the impression that the future is uncertain, but we all know that it is.
A politician or spokesperson for an organisation cannot let you think that their decisions may in deed turn out to be an error of judgement.
Also the word 'problem', is now banned because problems require solutions, some problems have no solutions. Politician pretend to have all the solutions by calling problems, 'issues'. An issue is the subject of a debate and therefore whatever they do they cannot have failed because they did not set out to find a solution to a problem, only to consider it and talk about it as an issue. I think these are modern examples of giving "solidarity to pure air". Words creating a vague feeling not conveying solid facts.
So many sound bites today do this,they make out that things are under control, when they are not, they are just platitudes to pacify an unquestioning mass audience.
I suggest you re-read the section where Orwell suggests the words of an apologist for the Stalinist regime in Russia, and note how the language sounds. By using euphemisms, the murder of political opponents, the detentions without trial and other atrocities are acceptable because the country is undergoing change.
I hope that this helps. I have no qualifications in the subject but I love the English language. You may like to read. 'Lost for Words' by John Humphrys, the subtitle is ' The Mangling and Manipulation of the English Language.'
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Cecily
Note the first word of the title: Politics. It's important.


If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

This essay demonstrates how political writers use language to persuade, dissemble, and deceive, and conversely, how to write factual information in a way that is honest and clear. It is also a rant that is easily misapplied to perpetuate prescriptive nonsense, regardless of context. It’s a muddle.

I hate the opening:
Most people who bother with the matter at all would adm
...more
Garima

This was an insightful and relevant lesson about the usage and analysis of English language in the Political context. Orwell with his sharp wit and influential prose has given us enough food for thought to mull over. It’s possible that next time while reading a newspaper or watching news channels, you’ll find yourself forming a critique about the manipulation of facts and trivializing of important matters in today’s times.

Here are some quotes which I found particularly wonderful:

- In our time i
...more
Dannii Elle
The essay, in its entirety, can be found here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/Po...

This essay measures in at just 24 pages and yet manages to convey so much in it's punchy and impactful style. As the title so aptly describes, this concerns the politics surrounding the usage of the modern English language. Orwell's view is that Modern English has become a mess of abstractness, inaccuracies and slovenliness and this essay attempts to relay exactly where we all went so wrong.

Instead of using fr
...more
Barry Pierce
Jul 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Orwell is a man after my own heart. This essay is basically about people using the English language incorrectly and why all political writing is bad, plus, a review of Mein Kampf! Orwell's stance on the English language is the same as mine, the language is fine the way it is, stop changing it! However, I do disagree with Orwell on one thing. Orwell states that one should should never use complicated words. He says that if you think if writing a big, complicated word but there is a plain simple E ...more
Bionic Jean
“Political language”, says George Orwell: “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.

Very true, we might say, and nod sagely with an air of cynicism. Inwardly we think there is a grain of truth in this, and that George Orwell is exaggerating for our entertainment, by using metaphors to describe what we know to be politicians’ typical “white lies”. But think of some of the phrases used in world politics, such as the “transf
...more
Ammar
Jan 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Not a long book, yet it’s packed with instructions and ideas of how Modern English is regressing and devolving and being absurd.

Orwell stats that one must not use foreign words, or use verbal false limbs
And the use of meaningless words

He wants the English used to be assessable, concise.

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out

Never use th
...more
Connie G
Jun 01, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, orwell
George Orwell gives examples of imprecise and overly complicated political writing in his essay "Politics and the English Language." He also has a list of suggestions for clear, concise writing. Readers are confused by convoluted writing full of political jargon. The essay was originally published in the journal Horizon in 1946, but his ideas still have lots of merit today. ...more
Kathleen
Jun 04, 2022 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, writing
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”

I didn’t know what to expect from this essay going into it, and thought Orwell would be calling me on my grammar. Far from it. This is really about clear, honest, thinking.

Anyone who reads or listens to the news knows how often the same phrases are used, over and over and over again until they are meaningless. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has stopped in the middle of an article or news commentary and said to myself, “Wait, does he or s
...more
B. P. Rinehart
Before I get to Orwell and the essay, I must do something I never thought I would do--quote the Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668 in a positive manner:

"Special uses of speech are these: first, to register what by cogitation we find to be the cause of anything, present or past; and what we find things present or past may produce, or effect; which, in sum, is acquiring of arts. Secondly, to show to others that knowledge which we have attained; which is to counsel an
...more
Vipassana
Fresh on the heels of 1984, I read Will Self's shoddy argument against all things Orwell replete with every logical fallacy in the book. Considering what a short essay this is, it seemed like a good time to read it.

Orwell's rules for writing here are specifically with respect to politics and not the literary use of language. He states it so clearly that it's surprising how anyone could think otherwise. Orwell even confesses that he tends to do the same things that he writes against in this essay
...more
Nisreen
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic, favourites
One of the greatest essays I have ever read about the relation between language and politics. A must-read for writers, and any one interested in deconstructing political discourse.
Orwell's precise, clear and simple language is an example of how theoretical and political discourse should be rather than the meaningless and pretentious endless formations of misused jargon we encounter nowadays in newspapers and books.
...more
Adam Ford
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Political language – and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists – is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidarity to pure wind." ...more
Joey
Feb 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, writing
Sentence 1 : I had this burning sensation of shame while absorbing myself in this essay.
Sentence 2 : I was ashamed of myself while reading this essay.

Which sentence do you find easier to understand?

This essay is like a simple term paper with objective analyses and conclusions. Or I’d rather say that George Orwell was like a psycho-linguist studying the words we usually use as specimens. First, he presented five passages he picked from articles. Second, he discussed the theories of phraseology.
...more
Mia
People love this essay and frankly I have no idea why; it is densely written, painfully abstruse, obnoxiously drawn-out. Orwell is capable of some great stuff, like Homage to Catalonia, Shooting an Elephant, and Such, Such Were the Joys. But then he goes and pulls shit like 1984 and this dung pile and I'm left wondering. ...more
Mark André
Jan 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
It was better the first time!
George Ilsley
This short essay by George Orwell is as relevant today as it was when he wrote it in 1946. Alarmed at the debasement of language, at the use of words divorced from any meaning, this essay howls into the wind — but the storm of propaganda and corporate speak (the foggy meaningless bafflegab of memos and public relations) has continued unabated.

Orwell say the process is reversible; that getting rid of the habit of bad language enables you to think more clearly. One can only hope.
Steven Godin
Oct 14, 2021 rated it really liked it

"In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defensel
...more
Sam Quixote
Jun 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This pamphlet-sized publication contains George Orwell’s superb 1945 essay “Politics and the English Language” and his 1941 review of Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf”.

What seems at first a pedantic viewpoint of railing against bad language, grammar, and so on, like a 1940s version of Lynne Truss, becomes far more complex and thoughtful - while still being accessible to the general reader. Orwell objects to the bad use of the English language firstly as a writer himself and then moves onto a dif
...more
Karl-O
Jul 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Orwell describes how language can affect thought. The essay is full of examples about how vague expressions convey much more unclear meanings than "simple" expressions, and how frequently used phrases can even do the thinking for you.

I believe what Orwell is talking about is true for more than just politics and for more than just the English language. Fictional and non-fictional writings are also suffering from the use of bad language. The two languages that I speak fluently (i.e. Armenian and
...more
HajarRead
Sep 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Language is important, it is not just a combination of sounds as I used to think. A poor language implies poor ideas which imply a weak society, and poor ideas lead to a poor language... Orwell will always make me think, this is my first essay by him and surely not the last. Read it read it read it !
Drew Canole
May 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: c-philosophy
“Politics and the English Language” is an essay written by the novelist George Orwell and published in 1946. It criticizes the written English of his time. Orwell argues for a writing style that is plain and transparent. The most important thing in writing is to make one’s meaning clear.

Orwell brings up numerous problems that plague writers’ works. The most important of these issues is the use of canned phrases. Many writers do not take the time to craft new sentences with select words that spec
...more
Lisa
Feb 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know when you stumble onto a passage in writing that articulates your thoughts for you better than you are able? In fact, helps those thoughts to grow to adult height? This essay was one of those for me, in its entirety.

It discusses our chronic lack of clarity in writing and the muddled and vague thinking unclarity props up. Now working in development, the essay feels like some combination of vaccination, antidote and prescription sunglasses.

An excerpt:
"Now that I have made this catalogue
...more
Sumirti Singaravelu


......to make pretentiousness unfashionable.



The very essence of this majestic essay of George Orwell is to elucidate and help the general (interested) mass to understand how far language as a tool is used repeatedly to manipulate, subvert and to lie in the realm of politics. Or, if one needs to be more precise, this essay is about how language is being used by those in power to gain their desired ends, which in most cases is morally unjust, without ever irking the masses whom they p
...more
Fares
Such an amazing and important writing. Very helpful advice on the lack of beauty/clarity/strength in today's English and how to avoid it. This was written back in 1046, yet it is as timely today as it ever was! ...more
Euodias
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars! It's a great read, very insightful and relevant. This actually made me question the way I speak and write. ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
I'll just leave this unrated as it is so short and old.
It was an interesting read, giving me something to think about and mostly wondering what he would say to the language of today's English speaking politics.
...more
Ralph
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is intriguing to note how applicable this essay still is to the current times.
Mark Rice
May 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Don't be put off by the word 'politics' in the title. This guide deals with language - spoken or written - and how to express oneself clearly in words. Orwell's rules of writing are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them, perhaps even more so in this age of grammatical vandalism. Using examples of vacuous political writing, Orwell critically shreds them, driving home the importance of clarity and specificity in language. To make his points, Orwell critiques shambolic political prose, ...more
Mark Joyce
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This essay should be required reading for anybody who writes so much as a daily email or social media post. Virtually every word continues to resonate more than seventy years after it was published and this passage, to take just one of many examples, could have been written yesterday:

“The English language becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. If thought corrupts language, language can a
...more
Zohal
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Read this for one of my assignments for university ... it's really invaluable and I recommend everyone gives it a read if they want to write better.

I agree with almost all of Orwell's assertions :)
...more
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39,827 followers
Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a police officer with the Indian Imperial
...more

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