Politics and the English Language

by

George Orwell

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Politics and the English Language Quotes

Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Modern Classics edition of Politics and the English Language published in 2013.
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Politics and the English Language Quotes

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.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Related Symbols: Drinking and Shame
Page Number: 1
Explanation and Analysis:

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 hen-house.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

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 colour, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestos, White Papers and the speeches of Under-Secretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance towards 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 […] And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favourable to political conformity.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenceless 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.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

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 […] 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.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:

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 till 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.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker)
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: George Orwell (speaker), Stuart Chase
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
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