Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who is...George Orwell?

Author of: most famously, Animal Farm and 1984, but also of several other books, poetry, and pieces of literary criticism and journalism


Important because: aside from his impact on the world of literary criticism (which is indeed intense*), Orwell has impacted popular and political culture with the ideas he presented in his writings. We get words (and the ideas associated with them) such as "Orwellian," "doublethink," "thought police," and "Big Brother" from Orwell, not to mention the creepy feeling that someone is always watching us!


Important to me because: to be honest, I was impressed with 1984 but not so much so that it made a lasting impression on me. However, if you read the news even sometimes, you'll notice the word "Orwellian" popping up everywhere.** Orwell's impact on the way political ideas are presented is profound and long lasting, probably in no small part to the fear upon which his cautionary tales play.

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*Orwell had these six tips for writers, in "Politics and the English Language":

  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Not bad, huh?

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**Need some proof?
The 9/11 Decade: Civil Liberties Today by Adam Liptak
The Times They Are Derangin' by Dan Carpenter
Orwellian Language of NHS 'Reform' by The Guardian
Republicans, Dems Cast Orwellian Shadows over State Redistricting by Peter Marcus
Big Brother is here and he's looking at us from the mirror by Ronald Nelson

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