NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Monday, November 30, 2009


by George Orwell

Read this essay here.

I read George Orwell's 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language" because it was quoted in Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death, and I wanted to know what else it had to say. In the essay, Orwell makes the argument that much of what passes for learned writing and speaking looks or sounds impressive at first, but when closely examined it is found to be little more than fancy words and worn phrases that ultimately express little or no meaning. Simplicity in conveying thoughts or ideas helps us to uncover poorly constructed logic, deception and outright lies.

I'll be using tips and tricks I learned in this essay next time I'm reading one of those "scholarly" writings I'm having difficulty understanding. Maybe they will help me to figure out if I really don't get it or if the flowery writing is masking a lack of coherent argument. And knowing I've used plenty of the very words and phrases Orwell ridicules, I'll be on the lookout for them in my own future compositions.


Anonymous said...

I don't necessary agree with the argument that simplicity necessitates a better understanding. The works of Heidegger or Derrida are notoriously difficult to read but I think their works straddle a line where their work demands a highly technical vocabulary due to the theoretical nature of it. Occasionally, writing like that does fall into the trap of convoluted prose like Judith Butler's work. Highly technical but terribly written.

When I write my essays, I try and keep sentences succinct. I suppose if you can't write what you mean in as short a sentence as possible, then your language is going to be a mess.

Lezlie said...

Damned Conjuror ~ I agree that the rule won't apply in every case, however when a person in trying to make his point to a wide range of the general public, I think it is a good rule to follow. The examples you give are of a specialized nature and, I believe, an exception, unlike, for instance, a political speech meant to inform or educate the general public.

Good to see you visiting! I hope university is going well!


JoAnn said...

Orwell's novels have never really appealed to me, but I've hear so many good things about his essays. I really must read some of them!

Lezlie said...

JoAnn ~ Something I read the other day said that Orwell was known as an essayist first and foremost. This is the first one I've read, and I'm looking forward to more.