Why is Orwell so disturbed over what he thinks is the deterioration of the English language?
In his essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell feels that political chaos is closely connected to the deterioration of the English language, for political language is designed "to make lies seem truthful, and murder respectable, and to give an air of solidity to pure wind."
Orwell states that if thought can corrupt language, language can also corrupt thought. Inflated style and overuse of idioms make for ambiguous language; many cruel thoughts can be hidden in euphemisms. Bad usage also contributes to the debasement of the language. But, Orwell feels the most strongly about politics being the greatest contributor to the deterioration of the English language. For he contends that most language is political, and, as such, consists of huge lies, and deception through euphemisms and question-bending:
All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.
Orwell's criticism of bad writing habits which spread by imitation. He proposes these solutions:
- Never use a metaphor, simile, or euphemism which you are used to seeing in print
- Never use a long word where a short one will do.
- If it is possible to cut a word out, always do so.
- Never use the passive voice when you can use the active.
- Never use a foreign phrase, a jargon word, or a foreign word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
- Break any of these words sooner than say anything outright barbarous.