Politics and the English Language

by

George Orwell

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Drinking and Shame Symbol Analysis

Drinking and Shame Symbol Icon

Orwell uses drinking and shame to represent the mutually productive relationship between language and laziness. Orwell argues that laziness encourages a wordy style writing which, in turn, makes people stupid. In doing so, Orwell is countering the notion that language is simply a mirror to the world. Rather than reflect societal ills, the wrong style is itself a “mental vice.” To illustrate, Orwell suggests that bad writing, born out of laziness, is similar to the spiral of drinking and shame, wherein shame leads to excessive drinking, and drinking leads to more shame. As he describes it, a man “may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks.” He argues that the same is true for laziness and writing: “[language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.” Thus, according to Orwell, intervening in language practices is not only possible, but a way to improve society. Specifically, Orwell suggests interrupting the spiral of laziness and vagueness with a writing style that prioritizes truth and concision.

Drinking and Shame Quotes in Politics and the English Language

The Politics and the English Language quotes below all refer to the symbol of Drinking and Shame. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Danger of Intellectual Laziness Theme Icon
). 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.
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:
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Drinking and Shame Symbol Timeline in Politics and the English Language

The timeline below shows where the symbol Drinking and Shame 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
The Danger of Intellectual Laziness Theme Icon
Specifically, Orwell compares the relationship between laziness and stupidity with shame and drinking : shame initiates drinking, which causes more shame, which then leads to more drinking and... (full context)