Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Politics and the English language

I’ve just been reading a fascinating essay by George Orwell on the use of hackneyed euphemisms in political-speak. It was written in 1946, but it still applies today.
Orwell says that ‘politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia’. I don’t agree with the last bit, but the other comments seem accurate and I get really annoyed when politicians and the media use cosy phrases to describe awful things with the aim of attenuating them and making them more 'acceptable'.
Orwell’s essay argues that writers should make their meaning clear and not used clichés.
He offers the following tips for writers – (politicians don’t seem to follow Orwell’s advice - I wonder why!!!!)
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

No comments: