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Politics and the English Language

by George Orwell

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Can you give examples of concrete writing by George Orwell in "Politics and the English Language"?

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Politics, language, and the relationship between the two are often perplexing to people, as they find these subjects to be amorphous and difficult to grasp. Orwell attempts to alleviate this confusion in "Politics and the English Language" by anchoring his thoughts to concrete examples.

Orwell proposes that poor writing and the "abuse" or misuse of language occurs in a cycle—one impacts the other continuously. He tries to illustrate this by saying that "A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks." We are becoming worse at articulating our thoughts and finding an insufficient vocabulary or lexicon to properly articulate those thoughts in the first place. This results in an "ugly" cycle of inadequate language to express inadequate thoughts.

Later in the essay, Orwell characterizes those who "abuse" language as being practically robotic in their thoughtlessness. When one such person is speaking, "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." He means that the use of prepackaged phrases or metaphors does very little to convey clear, meaningful thought. The automatic action of using such language is as mindless and mechanical as the workings of a machine.

Orwell accuses contemporary writers and speakers of being both too vague and not imaginative enough. It is therefore only appropriate that this critical essay would contain such precise and original imagery to help illustrate its argument. 

Also, it is very concrete and helpful of Orwell to include lists of the words and phrases which he considers to inaccurate or "slovenly." He not only describes the categories of language he dislikes but identifies many specific examples of language that makes for poor writing. 

Orwell tries to provide concrete examples of the "abuse" of language he discusses. For instance,

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. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. 

In this passage, Orwell identifies real-world behavior that degrades the meaning of a word or "abuses" it such that it becomes "meaningless." 

These are only a few examples. It is evident that for the sake of clarity and impact, Orwell makes a concerted effort to connect his thesis to language, politics, and human behavior in the real world.

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