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Rikecraft and the English Tung


George Orwell

1946

Un-Anglish draft at [1]

Most folk who bother with the bylore at all would ayeswear that the English tongue is in a bad way, but it is thought overall that we cannot by willful deed do anything about it. Our kithdom is rotten and our tongue — so the saking runs — must share in the overall downfall. It follows that any struggle against the mishandling of speech is soppy yoretrothenness, like forechoosing glims to wirelight or horsewains to windwains. Underneath this lies the half-aware belief that speech is a wild growth and not a tool which we shape for our own ends.


Now is it swotel that the downslide of a tongue must sooner or later have rikely and geldly wherefores: it is not owing only to the input of this or that lone writer. But a therefore can become a wherefore, strengthening again the first wherefore and bringing forth the same therefore in a bolder way, and so on without end. A man may take to drink for he feels himself to be an underwinner, and then underwin all the more wholly because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the Englishspeech. It becomes ugly and unaright for our thoughts are silly, but the slovenliness of our tongue makes it easier for us to have silly thoughts. The nub is that the forfaring can be undone. Nowa English, inso written English, is full of bad wonte which spread by aping and which can be forgone if one is willing to take the needed bother. If one gets rid of these wonte one can think siferly, that is a needed first step toward rikely growth anew: so that the fight against bad English is not whimsy and is not only the worry of underling writers. I will come back to this shortly, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become understood. Meanwhile, here are five forbusens of the Englishspeech as it is now wontfully written.


These five writparts have not been picked out for that they are mighty namely bad -- I could have quethed far worse if I had chosen -- but for that they show sundry of the mindly sins from which we now ache. They are a little below the middle, but are fairly good byspells. I tal them so that I can prick back to them when needed:


1. I am not, indeed, sure whether tis not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-yearhundred Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.
Loregiver Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)
2. Above all, can we not play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate , or put at a loss for bewilder .
Loregiver Lancelot Hogben (Interglossia)
3. On the one side have we the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, is the social bond itself nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?
Writ on mindlore in Politics (New York)
4. All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.
Ymeandomly Leaflet
5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, is there one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!
Errandwrit in Tribune


Each of these writparts has lacks of its own, but, aside from missworth ugliness, two ownships are shared by all of them. The first is staleness of mindsight; the other is lack of swotelness. The writer either has a meaning and cannot tell it, or he unknowingly says something else, or he is almost uncaring as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mix of haziness and sheer unworthiness is the most marked ownship of today's English unbedecked wordcraft, and besunders of any kind of rikecraftly writing. As soon as some intings are raised, the hard and fast melts into the pulled-out and no one seems dow to think of wends of speech that are not hackneyed: unbedecked wordcraft is made less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of wordstrings tacked together like the bits of a foremade henhouse. I list below, with saws and byspells, sundry of the tricks by means of which the work of unbedecked wordcraft is wontfully dodged:


Dying kennings. A newly made kenning helps thought by calling out a mindsight, while on the other hand a kenning which is lorewise "dead" (for byspell iron resolution) has in sooth gone back to being a mean word and can mostly be brooked without loss of lifelikeness. But in between these two sets there is a huge dump of worn-out kennings which have lost all wald for calling out and are merely brooked for they ward folk from the bother of making new wordstrings for themselves. Byspells are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgels for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, rift within the lute, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are brooked without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift", for byspell?), and unnearsib kennings are often mixed, a swotel mark that the writer is not mindful of what he is saying. Some kennings now in brook have been twisted out of their root meaning without those who brook them even being aware of it. For byspell, toe the line is sometimes written tow the line. Another byspell is the hammer and the anvil, now always brooked with the betangling that the anvil gets the worst of it. In andward life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would be aware of this, and would mithe misbrooking the wordstring.

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