University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Politics in the English Language
Miscommunication is often the result of modern prose which is most commonly used despite its vagueness because of its simplicity. According to George Orwell’s “Politics in the English Language,” these habits must be eliminated in order to think clearly, if not, language will continue to be used in corrupt ways by politicians. With poor language skills come poor thinking skills, making it easier for people to be manipulated by warped language. Ted Hughes “Words and Experience” expresses that words are inadequate and that it is very difficult to capture experience properly. The way in which Hughes and Orwell appeal to the problem of miscommunication are different; Orwell is critical while Hughes is sympathetic. In the paper “Politics in the English Language,” George Orwell appeals to logos to prove that the misuse of language is corruptly used by politicians for selfish purposes. Thought corrupts language and politicians manipulate language for their own selfish purposes. Words such as fascism and democracy are among those words due to their lack of a concrete meaning.
Democracy is often associated with a positive meaning whereas fascism is associated with a negative meaning. As a result dishonest politicians use their own interpretation to twist the meaning of what they are trying to communicate. They have defended events such as the Russian purges and deportations, the British rule in India and the atomic bombing in Japan by using language consisting of “euphemisms, questionable begging and sheer cloudy vagueness” (Orwell 699). This language covers up all the details of the events and is a prime example of how thought corrupts language. Language is warped because of the way it is used to lie and manipulate people. Politicians use vague language to hide questionable acts which leads to poor language skills. Orwell states that “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts” (Orwell 691). He believes that poor language skills lead to poor thinking skills which are detrimental to society because people often accept the words of authority figures without thinking; they are not conscience of the meaning of the words being used.
These bad language habits that Orwell indentifies are dying metaphors, pretentious diction and meaningless words; all of which are unnecessary and increase vagueness. This form of modern prose is easier therefore it is used commonly resulting in poor thinking skills. “The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness” and “consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else” (Orwell 697). Orwell suggests that the problem is cyclical; vague language leads to the inability to think for oneself and the inability to think leads to miscommunication. Orwell uses logos to identify the problem and treats it with a critical tone however, believes that it can be fixed “if one is willing to take the necessary trouble” (Orwell 691). Ted Hughes and George Orwell share similar views on the misuse of language however Hughes uses different points to convey the message in his essay “Words and Experience.” Hughes states that words are tools and that it is difficult to choose the correct words to capture experiences.
He uses the metaphor “A word is its own little solar system of meanings” (Hughes 120) because there is a vast amount of words to choose from and the process is often overcomplicated. Too much time spent thinking of the correct words to use causes people to miss the experience all together. Finding the right word requires a fine balance therefore words should not be used casually. Without this balance, words tend to inhibit the simplest descriptions such as “the infinite depth of crowiness in the crow’s flight” (Hughes 122). In this case, all words can be used for are indicators and general directives. Swiss psycho-analyst Jung believes that people know how to use words properly but have to quiet down to get what is inside their conscience. Although Hughes writes in a hopeful tone he believes that words are inadequate in describing experience. If and when a balance is found and words match experience, that is poetry. His view and solution are effectively communicated in using a sympathetic tone.
George Orwell and Ted Hughes both attack the problem of the misuse of language effectively. With similar goals, both are equally able to convey the same points while appealing to different aspects and emotions. George Orwell’s “Politics in the English Language,” appeals to logos while criticizing the way unclear language is used corruptly by politicians. He adequately shows how people are easily manipulated by warped language because poor language skills lead poor thinking skills. Ted Hughes appeals to logos by using a sympathetic tone to convey the message that words are inadequate and it is very difficult to capture experience in his essay “Words and Experience.” The problem of miscommunication found in modern prose is the result of vagueness and must be fixed. This is difficult because of the bad habits formed and its simplicity, however it can be fixed if one takes the initiative.