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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Savour the fun, note the rules, and don't overlook the review of Mein Kampf, 5 Mar 2013
This review is from: Politics and the English Language (Paperback)
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i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules are drawn from George Orwell's 1945 essay, Politics and the English Language. Yes, it's an essay, not a whole book, and this edition, although bearing the Penguin imprint, is really no more than a pamphlet. It has a paper cover and is held together with two staples.

Orwell would have been much more familiar than ourselves with pamphlets containing serious political or other matter. And this is certainly serious matter; primarily about the English Language (how she should be wrote!), not much about politics. Orwell's explanation for the prominence of the word Politics in his title is that "All issues are political issues...."

Many readers will relish the words with which he follows that statement. Penguin reproduces them on the back cover of this edition, but I won't spoil all the fun here.

Back in 1945, the samples of bad writing that Orwell dissects in the pages leading up to his set of rules would also have been a source of 'fun'. All five samples were contemporary, and two were penned by eminent professors. Egos were surely deflated, if not enemies made.

Orwell recognises that positioning himself as a critic of the writing of others, even going so far as to set down general rules, is certain to attract criticism of his own writing. So be it, he seems to say, the mission is worth the cost. As indeed it undoubtedly is.

Dare I be at all critical of Politics and the English Language? It is almost 70 years old, and by today's standards takes a lot of space to make some fairly basic points. That may be because Orwell was so successful in making his case it was long ago accepted as a basic premise. More likely, though, it is due to our 21st century impatience with any extended discussion.

Also included in the booklet is Orwell's 1940 review of Hitler's Mein Kampf. Bearing in mind the timing - the Second World War was less than six months old and Hitler still had more than five years to live - Orwell's remarks are notably perceptive, even prophetic, and definitely still worth reading.
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Lost John
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Location: Devon, England

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