Politics and the English Language


Do Political speeches provide accurate knowledge t

  • Partial Truth
  • Want to appear trustworthy
  • Concerned with public response 
  • False facts- use of conditional language
  • Appeals to ideals - ambiguous (pathos)

Concept: Political language is designed to confuse the audience 

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How does Orwell present his criticism of the use o

The Essay focuses on political language, which according to Orwell, "is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind"

Orwell believed that the language used was necessarily vague or meaningless because it was intended to hide the truth rather than express it. This unclear prose was a "contagion" which had spread to those who did not intend to hide the truth, and it concealed a writer's thoughts from himself and others.

Orwell encourages concrete thought and clarity instead of vagueness, and individuality over political conformity.

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Faulty Techniques used in his Essay

Dying Metaphors- It is a newly invented metaphor which assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically 'dead' has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning "ring the changes on"

Operators, or verbal false limbs- Gives each sentence an appearance of symmetry. "prove unacceptable"- the keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purposes verb. Uses passive voice rather than an active voice.

Pretentious diction- Words like phenomenon are used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch making are used to dignify the sordid processes of international politics.

Meaningless words- In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning. "Words like romantic….  As used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly even expected to do so by the reader".

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What is the effect of Orwell using lists?

By using a list, it makes it easier for the reader to remember rather than going into detail, in which the reader won't really remember. Helps the reader to follow and understand how the essay has been broken down. Orwell doesn't always follow his rules in which he admits within the 6 steps that he doesn't follow them and is aware of the fact he breaks them. Makes it as if it is okay to break the rules sometimes. You can achieve clarity if you follow his rules. "prose is like a window pane" - achievement of clarity, from following all 6 rules.

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What do Orwell's final thoughts suggest?

  • Politicians will still use this language
  • Need to stop using these phrases in our language
  • You can pick on the language if you want to
  • Need to be aware of the use of political language, because all leaders use it across the spectrum
  • Emphasis on how much we use meaningless words and dying metaphors

In his Essay 'Politics and the English language' Orwell criticises the use of meaningless words. For example, one aspect of political language on is how we use words that don't necessarily have a meaning and how that meaning can vary depending on how people interpret the word. Orwell uses 6 rules in most of his essays to break down the structure, and he is pointing out how he breaks the rules, but this is only broken because you need to achieve clarity.  In his essay 'Why I write', he quotes that "prose is like a window pane", which demonstrates how to achieve prose you need to have clarity of your intention and purpose of your writing.

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