“Between the bullet and the lie, where will I hide my head?”
I don’t know about you, but I’m relieved that this latest round of elections is over. It inspired me to revisit George Orwell’s essay, “Politics and the English Language.” Our boy George knew a thing or two about the subject, believe me! In honor of truth in advertising, here is a pungent quote from this classic, which is really worth reading in its entirety (I found it easily on line):
“If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs.”
George goes on to offer his basic rules for clear, spin-resistant language:
(1) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
(2) Never us a long word where a short one will do.
(3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
(4) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
(5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
(6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Great advice, whatever you’re writing. Amazing how relevant this wonderful essay remains — hope you’ll look it up. George was surely a dangerous writer!