|Part VI: “Politics and the English Language” by George Orwell
After reading George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language.” summarize his thesis and main ideas in one page. Although the assignment length is one page, one should still organize one’s ideas in paragraphs.
Condensing his argument into one page will challenge us to only prioritize his main ideas and to write concisely. We are striving for quality, not quantity. One does not need to replicate his evidence and examples or prove any of his claims. One only has to
accurately and concisely represent his argument, which I will war in advance is primarily concerned with the role of word choice and the avoidance of diction that is either vague, cliche, verbose, pretentious or cuphemistio. The paragraph starting with “It has
nothing to do with…” is a very helpful segment of the essay whereby the author clarifies his argument by explaining what it is not
One does not need to answer any of these questions in one’s essay, they are just intended to help guide one’s response. If one has difficulty answering these questions, it is an indication that one should reread the essay more carefully
. What are the underlying assumptions to Orwell’s argument? Which does he accept, which does he reject?
What do Orwell’s five examples have in common?
– What is the special connection between politics and language?
Paraphrase Orwell’s rules for writing
Does he break any of his own rules? Locate examples
Provide your own examples of dying metaphors.
– Provide your own examples of euphemisms.
Paraphrase the four trends contributing to the poor use of language?
How does grammar and establishing a standard English relate to Orwell’s argument?
What do dead metaphors and euphemisms have in common?
Make a list of the essay’s main ideas.
Key terminology relating to “Politics and the English Language”
Diction: word choice
Ideology: A system of beliefs or ideas
“Our imagined relation to the material world” (Althusser)
Totalitarianism vs Pluralism: one all encompassing ideology vs. multiple ideologies
Heteroglossia: different ideological influences in competition
Bricolage: the composition of different influences
Hegemony: the ruling class’ use of art, media, and language to control the ideology of the
nostalgia: an idealized view of the past
verbosity unnecessary or extra words
Pretentious diction: Unnecessarily complex word choice
Jargon: technical language specific to a discipline. For example, lawyers have legal jargon and
doctors have medical jargon. Jargon provides a practical utility. It enables people to talk about complex issues with greater specificity. But too often, people will use jargon unnecessarily to give “biased opinions an air scientific impartiality.” Use of jargon
should be contingent on the audience’s knowledge of the jargon not done out of pretentiousness.
Euphemism: Phrasing something in a way that makes it sound better than it actually is.
Dysphemismus: Phrasing something in a way that makes it sound worse or scarier than it
Hyperbole: an exaggeration or overstatement
Litore: an understatement
Dead Metaphors and cliche idiomatic phrases: Common colloquial phrases that are often metaphorical, contain double meanings, and can be used to obscure through false analogy or oversimplification. They fail to produce a mental image that aids in
‘politics and the English language”