When George Orwell wrote his essay on politics and the English language all those years ago, he was criticising an emerging phenomena in journalism that would grow far beyond the original scope of his essay; and I have to say that if he thought it was bad then, he certainly couldn’t imagine how we write now.
Every day, English speakers further abuse our language, the only language most of us know. We mix metaphors, use metaphors that we even can’t be bothered to understand correctly, and we take phrases and string common platitudes together in place of writing in a way that can be easily understood.
Intellectuals are the worst for taking a long time to say nothing at all, such as by stringing together Latin and Greek derived words or jargon in place of actual communication. Maybe they think it sounds smarter or makes them part of some exclusive club, but of course in reality it’s unnecessary, tiresome and pointless. Then, these same intellectuals will of course bemoan scientific illiteracy and argue that we need more STEM and less English. When they inevitably get their own way, fresh hordes of clones gluing Latin prefixes to Greek suffixes will be created.
The slaughter of our language has come from the very top and has trickled down, creating ‘text speech’, with everyone using acronyms. It shocks me that we are now so profoundly lazy and unimaginative that full words are beyond us, as if we are cave people bashing rocks together. As Wittgenstein said, ‘the limits of my language are the limits of my world’; if we can’t speak our own one properly what hope is there to learn another, or even to create anything of value of our own?
Most people don’t read, and most schoolchildren complain about how Shakespeare is useless, an excuse I’m sure they’ll apply to anything they don’t want to do, and which adults who love being doormats listen to continuously. Education is not primarily to help those who receive it; it should never be about what a field can give to me but what I can give to that field. Thinking about it any other way would mean that people would only learn that which they can be bothered to learn, which incidentally is pretty much nothing.
We always cater far too much to our own whims, never telling ourselves ‘no’ nearly as much as we ought to. It is because of our neglect, laziness and selfishness that our language is now suffering as it is.
Photo from PxHere.com.
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