Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Words Matter

One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. 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 an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time, one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase - some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or other lump of verbal refuse - into the dustbin where it belongs.


~George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," Shooting an Elephant, 1950

2 comments:

HappyChyck said...

"...designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable..."

There are a lot of things going on in the world that causes this to happen. It's an interesing perspective, and I know after reading this that I'll look for other sources guilty of the "verbal refuse" because I don't think the political arena is the worst with it. That might be where it originates, though.

Gina said...

Yes, well that quote is from 1950 and in the sixty years since things have gotten so much worse. Now the "political language" is a well studied tool that is used to sell everything from antibacterial soap to war.