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
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.