Politics and the English Language


George Orwell

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Professor Lancelot Hogben Character Analysis

A zoologist and linguist, Hogben is the author of one of the five passages that Orwell uses to illustrate bad writing. While the point of his passage is difficult (if not impossible) to parse out, clues give the readers an idea of the biological subject matter. For one, there’s mention of ducks. The second clue is that the passage is from the book Interglossa. Orwell doesn’t describe the book, but readers may know that Interglossa is Hogben’s attempt to construct an international lexicon of science and technology. That context—which, again, is lacking in Orwell’s essay—gives readers a better idea of what’s going on in Hogben’s passage. Specifically, Hogben appears to be describing the use of different phrases as a part of his lexicon. Orwell derides Hogben’s passage as an example of a writer too lazy to look words up in the “dictionary and see what it means.” Like Laski, Hogben was likely well-known to his audience as a political activist. While Orwell makes no note of Hogben’s activism, readers of the time were likely familiar with Hogben as a biologist who advocated against eugenics. It’s also possible that, still like Laski, by attaching a political activist to a seemingly apolitical passage, Orwell is subtly reinforcing the claim that all discourse is political discourse, and that politics and language are tightly intertwined.
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Professor Lancelot Hogben Character Timeline in Politics and the English Language

The timeline below shows where the character Professor Lancelot Hogben 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
...representative of bad writing. The first two passages come from academics (Professors Harold Laski and Lancelot Hogben ). The last three passages cite only the publication (that is, they do not mention... (full context)