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Politics and the English Language by George…
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Politics and the English Language (1947)

by George Orwell

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Showing 5 of 5
This one is very short and sweet but to the point. With all the crazy politics surrounding the US these days, I wanted to get my hands on more Orwell, because there are so many things going on that are just flat out Orwellian! It's horrifying how accurate and applicable this little book is to what's happening in 2018. And it's absolutely horrifying that half the country wouldn't even understand this book.
  justagirlwithabook | Jul 31, 2018 |
To say that this book is equally applicable today is naive. Orwell's work is applicable to all of history, whether in the sense that politicians rarely say what they mean, or hide atrocities through vague language, or whether all of history has been re-written in such a way as to hide the truth. The word "democracy" as we use it today, and especially when we mean the phrase "liberal democracy", is the opposite of what Orwell writes. For example, why use a phrase when a single word will do? In the case of liberal democracy, why use a single word when we really mean a phrase? Any undergraduate student of politics should know that "liberal democracy" is an "essentially contested concept". But why is this so? Orwell explains: 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 régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. What does this mean? It means that attempting to "depoliticise" (Orwell criticises the use of un- and de- and -ise words) language is a political act. Indeed, to be conservative is to prevent another's exercise of power by exercising a legacy power while claiming that no such power exists. It is interesting that this work includes Orwell's review of Hitler's Mein Kampf, where he claims that in Hitler's Brownshirt days, he was regarded by both the left and the right as a conservative. And whenever I think of Hitler I cannot help but think of the movie Tea with Mussolini, for the same reason. To conclude, this work is relevant to all time, just as the political dramas unfolding today have been unfolding forever, and will continue to do so. But what can we do? If my other reading is anything to go by, we can take a "bird's-eye view" like the Stoics, and see history for what it is. Or, one might adopt an Epicurean approach and withdraw from politics altogether. Nonetheless, if one combines the two approaches, one can see it for what it is, and withdraw, knowing it will make no difference either way, and then focus on using plain and simple English to convey the truth. The major difference today, however, is that there is an app that will help one do just that. Aren't we lucky. ( )
  madepercy | Dec 28, 2017 |
I wish I had read this before I wrote my dissertation. ( )
  bo18 | Jan 18, 2016 |
As an editor and writer, Orwell makes me feel inadequate. The rot in language, he argues, is not neologism, Americanism or anything else about which people write letters to the Telegraph. It is a reliance on shorthand where thought is needed. The man's just scribbled "lacks application" at the bottom of everything I've written. ( )
  m_k_m | Mar 4, 2013 |
George Orwell has always been something of a hero of mine: how many writers can be claimed by both left and right of the political spectrum? Orwell has always ploughed his own furrow (a phrase of which, he would disapprove!) and that makes for an interesting author.

If you, like me, procure this book(let) from an internet supplier, you may be a trifle disappointed when 24 pages in a flimsy paper cover drops through your letterbox. Literature, however, is unlike spuds: one doesn't measure its effectiveness by the weight or girth of a book. The two articles in this book presumably started life as newspaper columns and are concentrated Orwell. In the first, he laments the destruction of the English language by politicians who, he claims, do not speak in words, but in conjoined collections of words - the sound-bite was clearly alive and well long before Tony Blair. Orwell makes a sound case for the unclear use of language to be inextricably linked to fuzzy thinking.

In the second, even briefer item, Orwell reviews a new version of Mein Kampf. Sadly, these articles are not dated, but one presumes that this was written around the middle to late 1930's, when English Conservatives were coming to realise that Hitler was a little too extreme even for their anti Socialist tastes. It adds an interesting, contemporary perspective upon Britain's attitude to Hitler.

A thought provoking little book - and one well worth its place upon any bookshelf. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Mar 1, 2013 |
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