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George Orwell’s major argument in “Politics and the English Language”

The normalization of bad writing leads to the degeneration of any language and subsequently results in political oppression. The distortion of any language reflects that society is in a bad state due to the corruption of the civilization. In other words, language acts as the mirror of society that reflects the state of the world people lives in. George Orwell starts “Politics and English Language” with the refuting argument that language does not only reflect the world but also shapes the world and therefore is descriptive as well as prescriptive for the decline of civilization. Orwell posits some of the significant elements which constitute bad writing are a mixture of vagueness, inflated prose, loose grip on reality, pretentious diction, sheer incompetence, and a contrastive gap between one’s real and desired aims that lead a writer to pull words together without really thinking. This essay summarizes George Orwell’s major argument in “Politics and the English Language” that language manipulation through imprecise language intentionally or unintentionally is a great tool in the arsenal of political tyranny.

Orwell builds up his central argument regarding the English language’s degeneration due to political designs that “inflated prose” is the primary driver of civilization’s decline which comes into play when lazy writers choose smart-sounding words instead of reality-based vocabulary. Orwell warns the readers of the English language that once this would be normalized in English writing, dictators can more easily capitalize on linguistic vagueness and the political world will be engaged in linguistic trickery. Moreover, the inflated style, according to Orwell, circulates like a viral disease through society and can turn governmental lies into “truths” by rotting and manipulating the brains of the readers and writers to achieve nefarious political designs. He explicitly warns against political oppression through the use and reliance on “readymade phrases” and encourages the readers and writers of the English language to be reality-specific, creative, and imaginative while coinciding with vivid metaphors (Orwell, 1946).

Orwell agrees that the English language mirrors the decadence of English-speaking civilization by establishing a link between language and politics. He draws that the decline of politics and writing goes hand in hand as writers use and shape language as a tool purposefully for their political endeavors. Orwell demonstrates that political writers by using abstract, dishonest, and pretentious language disguises concrete violent realities in order to “justify” what is “unjustifiable.” He asserts that the English language is being muddied by euphemisms, pretentious phrases, obscure prose, and clichés that contribute to a poor political climate for the English-speaking civilization (Orwell, 1946). He asserts that “pretentious diction” is not just to wield the “meaningless words” but has a higher level of underlying cleverness which is used in the political discourse to deceive people through language.

In the nutshell, Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” reasons that the modern English language as well as civilization is in decline because it is fraught with large, pointless, complicated, and meaningless words and phrases that only contribute to propaganda rather than serving sincere meaning. Orwell argues that language is used as a tool by readers and writers worldwide that can be manipulated to build up a “prefabricated hen-house” and it is not natural evolutionary growth. He offers solutions to end up political tyranny through writing more straightforward and sincere prose with vivid metaphors. Orwell, as a final note, puts forward the suggestion that avoiding jargon, metaphors, passive voices, and foreign words can help the English-speaking civilization to reverse the tide of linguistic corruption (Orwell, 1946). In this regard, he specifically accuses academics of the excessive use of “foreign words” and “jargon” in the institutionalized discourse that make a language hide tangible knowledge from the readers. He describes this move as the enhancement of the precision and organizational clarity of the English language which will reflect a writer’s own perception of reality.


Orwell, G. (1946). Politics and the English language.



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