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Re: <nettime> language virus
Roberto Winter on Wed, 5 Sep 2007 14:12:58 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> language virus


this discussion reminded me of George Orwell's "Politics and the English
Language" (written in 1946!!!)

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

[full text inserted  {AT}  nettime]

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the
English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we
cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is
decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably
share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against
the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring
candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath
this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth
and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately
have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad
influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become
a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect
in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to
drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the
more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that
is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate
because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language
makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the
process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is
full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided
if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of
these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a
necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight
against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern
of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I
hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have
become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English
language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are
especially bad -- I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen --
but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which
we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly
representative examples. I number them so that i can refer back to
them when necessary:

      1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the
Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had
not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more
alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could
induce him to tolerate.

            Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

      2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native
battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables
as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder .

            Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa)

      3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition
it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its
desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what
institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness;
another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity;
there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally
dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing
but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the
definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic?
Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality
or fraternity?

            Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)

      4. All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the
frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and
bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement,
have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval
legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of
proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to
chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary
way out of the crisis.

            Communist pamphlet

      5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there
is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that
is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here
will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may
be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's
roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer
Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain
cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather
ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly
masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is
heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to
hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated,
inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing
maidens!

            Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from
avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first
is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer
either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says
something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words
mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence
is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and
especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain
topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one
seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose
consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning,
and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a
prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various
of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is
habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by
evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is
technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to
being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of
vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of
worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely
used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for
themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel
for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder
with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill,
fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel,
swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their
meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors
are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in
what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of
their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of
the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the
line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used
with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life
it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way
about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid
perverting the original phrase.

Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking
out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each
sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry.
Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make
contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have
the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take
effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The
keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single
word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase,
made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb
such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive
voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun
constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead
of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of
the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an
appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple
conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with
respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of,
in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences
are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly
to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be
expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration,
brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.

Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as
noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary,
promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate,
are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific
impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making,
epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable,
inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of
international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war
usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being:
realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler,
banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul
de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo,
gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture
and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g., and
etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases
now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially
scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always
haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than
Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict,
extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of
others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers.* The
jargon peculiar to

*An interesting illustration of this is the way in which English
flower names were in use till very recently are being ousted by
Greek ones, Snapdragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming
myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change
of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning away from
the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is
scientific.

Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these
gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists
largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but
the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root
with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation.
It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize,
impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to
think up the English words that will cover one's meaning. The result,
in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

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, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural,
vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in

? Example: Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely
Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic
compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative
hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . .Wrey
Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull's-eyes with precision. Only
they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more
than the surface bittersweet of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly)

the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object,
but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic
writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living
quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing
about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts
this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white
were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would
see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many
political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no
meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable."
The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic,
justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be
reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy,
not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make
one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that
when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently
the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy,
and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were
tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in
a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has
his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means
something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true
patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic
Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent
to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more
or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive,
reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let
me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to.
This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to
translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst
sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

    I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the
swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise,
nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of
skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

    Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the
conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits
no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a
considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken
into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for
instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It
will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning
and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely,
but in the middle the concrete illustrations -- race, battle, bread
-- dissolve into the vague phrases "success or failure in competitive
activities." This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind
I am discussing -- no one capable of using phrases like "objective
considerations of contemporary phenomena" -- would ever tabulate
his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency
of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two
sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words
but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday
life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables:
eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The
first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time
and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a
single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables
it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the
first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is
gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This
kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will
occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I
were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes,
we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to
the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist
in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing
images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming
together long strips of words which have already been set in order by
someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The
attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier
-- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion
it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If
you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about
for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of
your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to
be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry --
when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a
public speech -- it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized
style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in
mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will
save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale
metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the
cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for
yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of
a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash -- as
in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown
into the melting pot -- it can be taken as certain that the writer is
not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words
he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the
beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in
fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the
whole passage, and in addition there is the slip -- alien for akin --
making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness
which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks
and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and,
while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling
to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if
one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless:
probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole
of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or
less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes
him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have
almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have
a general emotional meaning -- they dislike one thing and want to
express solidarity with another -- but they are not interested in the
detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence
that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1.
What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image
or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have
an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put
it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But
you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by
simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come
crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you -- even think
your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will
perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning
even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection
between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

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, expressing his private opinions and not a "party
line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless,
imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets,
leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of
undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they
are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid,
homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the
platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial
atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the
world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- 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. And this is not altogether fanciful.
A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance
toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are
coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be
if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making
is one that he is accustomed to make 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. 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. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the
air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle
machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is
called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms
and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry:
this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.
People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back
of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this
is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is
needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures
of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor
defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe
in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing
so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

 While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain
features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must,
I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political
opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods,
and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon
to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete
achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin
words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline
and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language
is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's
declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and
exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age
there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are
political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions,
folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad,
language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which
I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian
and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen
years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people
who should and do know better. The debased language that I have
been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not
unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve
no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear
in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always
at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you
will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am
protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet
dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he "felt
impelled" to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the
first sentence I see: "[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of
achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political
structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in
Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of
a co-operative and unified Europe." You see, he "feels impelled"
to write -- feels, presumably, that he has something new to say --
and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group
themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This
invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations,
achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is
constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes
a portion of one's brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable.
Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all,
that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we
cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words
and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language
goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words
and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary
process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent
examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which
were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list
of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough
people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be
possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence*, to reduce
the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out
foreign phrases

*One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this
sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a
not ungreen field.

and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness
aunfashionable. But ll these are minor points. The defense of the
aEnglish language implies more than this, nd perhaps it is best to
astart by saying what it does not imply.

To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging
of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a
"standard English" which must never be departed from. On the contrary,
it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom
which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct
grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes
one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with
having what is called a "good prose style." On the other hand, it is
not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written
English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring
the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest
and shortest words that will cover one's meaning. What is above all
needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way
around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender
to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly,
and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing
you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to
fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to
use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to
prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job
for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning.
Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and
get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations.
Afterward one can choose -- not simply accept -- the phrases that
will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what
impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This
last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all
prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness
generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word
or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct
fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

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

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if
you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright
barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep
change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the
style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad
English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in
those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but
merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing
or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to
claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this
as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you
don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One
need not swallow such absurdities as this, but 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.





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