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George Orwell Politics and the English Language

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Handout Notes:

Johnson, Double-plus effective, The Economist

  • Donald trump uses simple, similarly structured language in two brief sentences followed by an emotive word.
  • Simple language is easier to process and understand
  • Trump uses repetition as a rhetorical tool
  • Trump avoids speeches and instead, engages in unscripted conversation or simply “talks”. This engages journalists as well all audiences.
  • Unscripted language is more manipulative when it comes to politics as voters are sick of complex political language and the use of intricate synonyms to express a simple phrase.
  • George Orwell uses simple language.

George Orwell Politics and the English Language:

  • Language is natural and should not be instrumented for our own purpose
  • The English language is dying due to our foolishness
  • Each of the 5 quotes used stale imagery and lack of precision in which the writer is either unable to express their opinion or is trying to say something else
  •  Language is too abstract with words that now have no meaning
  • Language is not being used to express a point but to rather, pack sentences together to create a flowing piece.
  • Dying metaphors (e.g. iron resolution) are now meaningless and no longer evoke imagery, they are simply used because of laziness.
  • E.g. toe the line, no axe to grind, stand shoulder to shoulder, Achilles’ heel, swan song etc.
  • Many of those examples are used without knowledge of their meaning. Because of this their use in language is often flexible and potentially used out of context.
  • Operators or verbal false limbs is the use of extra syllables or words to provide flow/ symmetry to a sentence
  • E.g. be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for etc.
  • These phrases should simply eliminate words instead of elongating them. (e.g. “by examination of”, instead of “by examining”
  • Pretentious Diction is the use of words like: Phenomenon, element, objective Individual etc. in an attempt in include scientific impartiality.
  • Writing based on glorifying war use an archaic tone (e.g. throne, chariot, realm etc)
  • Foreign words add a sense of culture and elegance (e.g. Status quo, cul de sac etc)
  • Marxist writing consists of words translated from Russia, Germany or France unlike typical words with Latino or Greek origin.
  • Meaningless words are particularly used in art and criticism. These words don’t point out anything specific but are there to add flow. (e.g. commenting on an artwork’s deadness)
  • Fascism has no meaning as it now only signifies something undesirable, Similar to words such as democracy, socialism, freedom etc. which don’t have an agreed meaning or reconcile with each other.
  • These words are often used in a dishonest way or as a private definition
  • Quote 3 contains the same kind of English, the translation and original quote are relatively similar, however the preciseness of their meaning cannot be achieved using intricate words.
  • Many modern writers attempt to combine invented words with traditional words to make a description clear because it is easy and automatically produces rhythm.
  • Using mixed metaphors creates new thought and excitement in the reader
  • Quote 4 uses a lot of stale phrases
  • Quote 5 is broad and not interested in detail
  • Political writing is secretive and is masked with a friendly appearance
  • Political writings tend to include similar stale phrases and repetitive language
  • Political style includes a mask of Latin words which often fail to address detail in sentences.
  • Never use a metaphor or simile that has been used before
  • Never replace a short word with a long one when meaning is clear
  • Cut out unnecessary words
  • Avoid foreign phrases
  • Language should be about expressing rather than concealing

Former BBC head Mark Thompson on Trump, Orwell and what’s gone wrong with political language

  • Simplicity in language is ideal as it enables honesty and emotion as well as engagement in conversation
  • Trump uses authenticism which is not truth
  • Political persuasion is losing interest and effect as people are more aware, they understand that promises are not kept and that words are simply nothing but words.
  • Politicians have no other agenda but to divide
  • Orwell educates: never use a long word when a short one will do, never use the passive where you can use the active, don’t use foreign phrases or scientific words or argon
  • “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable with an appearance of solidarity to pure wind”
  • Thompson researched into the Nazi’s who distorted language to serve their own ends, this is similar to modern day. The use of Fanatic for instance became the highest Nazi praise.
  • Politicians treat the world like smart grown-ups, this is evident in their use of language and hyperbolic excesses
  • We must attempt to listen carefully for true understanding although it is difficult to tell the difference

1984 has already happened and nobody noticed

  • Orwell’s 1984 has been successful upon its release 67 years ago to even this day
  • Edward Snowden and spies of the NSW and its international allies
  • The American National security Agency have been collecting the phone numbers. Search histories and other data from its citizens for years. Therefore, surveillance was never a new thing /thing of the past.
  • Government agencies simply excuse this as the finding of the needle amongst a haystack
  • It’s not just America, there is a “five eyes” alliance between US, Australia, UK, New Zealand and Canada- countries which are seemed to be the most democratic of them all
  • Telco’s are instructed by the government to record our call data for 2 years
  • USA is attempting to hide the surveillance fact with the introduction of the USA Freedom Act
  • Advancements in technology could be doing us more harm than good as spy agencies use it as a medium to listen into our conversations and daily life.

So, are we living in 1984? –Ian Crouch

  • the idea of privacy and security
  • 1984 begins in Oceania with the introduction of Winston who appears to take on the mentality of a man a lot older than his age
  • everyone assumes that they are always being watched? But are they actually? Or is the inner parties’ way of preventing rebellion against the government from the population.
  • The technological advancements that have occurred were superior to what Orwell had predicted
  • The target is at the communication between people (even letters are opened before delivery)
  • Digital privacy is something that is slowly fading away
  • Big brother and Obama’s response to the outcry about domestic surveillance. Americans had to trust him and so did Winston in the end
  • The war against terrorism is being paralleled with Orwell’s critique of the atmosphere during the perpetual war
  • It is important to take into consideration that the book is also a Romantic love story between Winston and Julia. The idea of sex is also used to indicate that love is a greater force that is beyond the government’s reach
  • Towards the end, we realise that love too, is a political act

Sorry we’re not living in Orwell’s 1984- Michael Moynihan

  • Orwell’s prediction of an all knowing totalitarian stare were somewhat made evident when Snowden revealed the existence of domestic surveillance programs by the NSA
  • The began to sell with a sudden 6021% increase in sales on just a single day
  • The road to Serfdom was another seller
  • Obama’s administration official Cass Sunstein compared his tv show with the two-minute hate from 1984
  • Just 5 years after Stalin’s death, people began to praise Orwell’s work. It was not officially released in Russia for another 30 years, and the copies that were available were translated from samizdat form
  • It is paralleled with American phones being tapped and their privacy being invaded
  • Orwell never visited Russia
  • People began to accept Orwell’s opinions with the leaked info from Snowden causing extra havoc
  • Germany’s culture minister claimed that 1984 was an acid commentary and possession of the book was a crime
  • The book is also about Stalinist totalitarianism evident from the phrase War is peace, Freedom is slavery and Ignorance is strength
  • North Korean is paralleled to identify the most similarity with the context expressed in 1984



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