Consider the example which George Orwell used in his “Politics and the English language”. In it he speaks of a comfortable university Don defending Russian totalitarianism. The Don might mean to say “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so”. Obviously even a modestly clever man knows that in this country, believing that murder is a solution for anything is frowned upon.

It leads to cancellations of speaking appointments and research grants. So, the Don uses language to couch his words behind latin and jargon and floral decorations.

“While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.“

This is the language of the gray-haired old professor who brush dandruff off his collar as he sorts his editions of Pepys; not the language of the vicious thug with the machine gun and the barking dog. The rose petals of rationality fall on a gentle pond of reason.

Churchill, like Orwell, warned of this. In his “The scaffolding of rhetoric” (pdf!) he wrote:

“The unreflecting often imagine that the effects of oratory are produced by the use of long words…. The shorter words of a language are usually the more ancient. Their meaning is more ingrained in the national character and they appeal with greater force to simple understandings than words recently introduced from the Latin and the Greek. All the speeches of great English rhetoricians … display an uniform preference for short, homely words of common usage….”

Reading a newspaper article today, regardless of whether it is in The Guardian or The Telegraph, to pick two outlets poles apart, can you not agree that this kind of thing is quite common even today? The not so jolly old socialist, or the instinctively troubled one, has been co-opted by libertarians and such for 1984, but it’s in the essay that his greater truths come out – truths which even people like Churchill could agree with him about.

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