The use and abuse of language

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. . . . Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"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."

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"

RECENT COLUMNS

Archives

The Catholic Thing Daily Email

Receive columns each morning about events in the Church and the world.

  • Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

 Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email

The Catholic Thing Daily Email

Receive columns each morning about events in the Church and the world.

  • Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

 Join the 50k+ subscribers who receive The Catholic Thing's daily email