Friday, January 20, 2006

I Have No Time for You Today

Appy polly loggies, but am slizzammed by a deadline cluster-event.

Instead, go read George Orwell's 1946 blog-post "Politics and the English Language." I will expect a full critique, with concrete examples from recent publications that "make lies sound truthful and murder respectable," on my desk by Monday morning.
I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.
(Thanks to XTCFan for reminding me of this essay, which I read as an undergraduate during the Carter Administration, never dreaming how tooth-grindingly relevant it would remain.)

7 comments:

Wren said...

Lovely Neddie --
I haven't the time to complete your assignment, but thank you for bringing Mr. Orwell's article to our mesmerized attention. I, too, read this long ago; not in college, but by sheer luck as I worked to improve my writing without academic guidance. The man was a seer in so many aspects of modern life, and remains so.
Neddie, you're the cat's pajamas. You ring my chimes. You're my hero!
With deepest respect,
Wren

Neddie said...

One endeavors at all times to earn the honored claim to be worn to bed by Grimalkin. To no higher accolade might one aspire -- not even, indeed, to that of the cassowary's terrycloth bathrobe or the three-toed sloth's Lantz flannel nightie.

Twenty-three skiddoo to you, Wren dear. No, be generous -- twenty-four skiddoo!

Oh, what's the use: It's aalqwpsw

Anonymous said...

Great Post! If you liked the essay, then the book must be part of the assignment too.
"Why I Write" by Orwell also tears into this subject.

It's on the net somewhere for free, but since I paid for mine, I'll let others do the work to find it if they're interested in getting the complete story on this subject from Orwell.

Buck Batard.

Anonymous said...

OK< I just read the essay all the way through.
I think it's the last chapter in the book, "Why I write".

Neddie said...

the last chapter in the book, "Why I write".

In speaking of Orwell's book, people always forget the vitally important subtitle:

..."And You Rong!"

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine, alive as you or me. The revered holy man offered me a variety plate of the finest Heavenly pickles, of such richness and abundance as was never seen on this earthly sphere. From bread-and-butters from Krakow to Bavarian gherkins, from New York's finest kosher rounds to the exotic pickled Pranyara-parabharatas of Mumbai. But I, a humble man, chose only the lowliest of the selection. When queried by the saintly apparition as to my pickle selection, I shrugged my humble little shrug and merely said,

"I always choose the dlgus."

momula said...

What a long way to go for a verification word! You're a caution, Neddie!

All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime could never do you justice in reason or rhyme, so please just keep posting to entertain and educate us.

XTCfan said...

All credit where credit's due ... I got the tip to re-read this from our mutual friend across the pond, JM (sometimes known on the InterWebWay as Hieronymo).

Sounds as if I first read it about a year after you did, while taking "Non-fiction writing" with then-Georgetown prof John Powers. In any case, them's some words to live by. By which to live. Whatever.


ommyf!