Politics and the English Language

by

George Orwell

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Orwell invents a hypothetical English professor defending Russian totalitarianism to help explain his argument for honesty and concision in writing. After connecting laziness to political trickery, Orwell argues that bad actors adopt an “inflated style” to rebrand their abuses and hide the reality of their actions. The hypothetical English professor example illustrates how one such bad actor might use inflated style to “make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.” According to Orwell, the inflated style allows bad actors to linguistically disguise arguments “which are too brutal for most people to face.” Through this hypothetical English professor, Orwell demonstrates how someone might rephrase “I believe in killing off your opponents” as “certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods.” Both sentences say the same thing, but the second one is less explicit and therefore less obviously violent. In doing so, Orwell suggests that violence is easier to commit when the harshness of that violence is smoothed through deceptive language. Thus, through this example, Orwell demonstrates how deceptive political speech relies on euphemisms for violence that ultimately make the reality of that violence more challenging to confront.
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English Professor Character Timeline in Politics and the English Language

The timeline below shows where the character English Professor appears in Politics and the English Language. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Politics and the English Language
Style as a Political Issue Theme Icon
Honesty, Truth, and Concision Theme Icon
...actor could use “inflated style” to manipulate an audience, Orwell invents a hypothetical character: an English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He then speaks in the voice of that character to show how... (full context)