This blog is now rarely updated, but remains as an archive of bits and pieces I've collected from around the internet. To see what's caught my eye more recently, find me on twitter.

Monday 7 May 2012

#158; Orwell & Comic-Con

On the train the other day I read this brilliant article from George Orwell, complaining about the 'modern' (this was written in 1946) trends in English language. What particularly struck a cord with me, and is certainly as true today as it was then, is the point about a lack of precision. Using unnecessarily long and confusing words to create an illusion of intelligence, which generally results in the actual meaning of a piece of writing being lost entirely. Bullshitty flouncey language used to obscure the fact that the person speaking has no real understanding of what's going on themselves.

"The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose"

Here is his solution:
I think the following rules will cover most cases:
  • Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never us 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 word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable.  
Evidently his advice hasn't been particularly well heeded. But this is well worth a read.


On that same train ride, this film was my other source of entertainment:

Comic-con seems to be a completely unapologetic celebration of people who are genuinely passionate about something. It's a shame that people often feel shy about the quirky hobbies that they really love. One day, I will go to Comic-Con. It just looks like buckets of fun.

On a related note, this short film is great. Settler's of Catan anyone?


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