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Orwell: Defeating the barbarous

November 19, 2010

Reading George Orwell’s passionate defense of the English language is a useful exercise, especially as we continually get bombarded by meaninglessness of political language, the opaqueness of economic language, and the jargon of business language.

It is amusing to read what, in 1946, Orwell rails against (the use of “individual” as a noun…. *gasp*), but his overall point is well made.

If language is a reflection of our thoughts, then what does it say when we continually use words and phrases are so bland that they lack meaning.

Orwell’s five rules are worth heeding:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

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