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Why is the English Language disintegrating?

February 23rd, 2024

by Amelia Mitchell

What is the source of the tragic degradation of the English language which is apparent all around us today? Why, when new scientific discoveries, staggering architectural achievements, and the amazing rise in living standards for many are taking place throughout the world, is our once rich English language on its way to disintegration? 

[The English Language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.

George Orwell

Many believe that a degradation in a civilization or society’s method of communication and expression is due to the decline, or otherwise, of its thoughts and actions. One of these people is George Orwell. He explained in his essay on Politics and the English Language that when our thoughts are foolish, the disarray and futility of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts. Here he specified two key mistakes that are frequently made in English. Pretentious diction and the use of meaningless words.  To counter these problems we must really know the true meaning of the words which we use. One way in which to get rid of sloppy, or overly showy writing is simply to engage your mind and not take any shortcuts. 

Orwell then mentions a few questions to ask yourself while writing, which help combat these bad habits.

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
  5. Could I put it more shortly?

Orwell saw a way to remedy the rapid decline the English language is facing today. He viewed language as a tool used for revealing and communicating deep thought, not for vainly embellishing or even concealing it. 

However, is it really true that our thoughts affect so much about what we do? Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher and poet once said: “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”  

What we think about constantly is what we worship. What we worship is what we wish to become like. Our society and politics are made of individuals, and individuals have to worship something no matter what many would like to believe. Thus changes in our society are truly due to each individual’s thought process. This is why our Language is deteriorating. The corruption of our thoughts increases as we move further away from Him who is the Author of perfect communication, eloquence, clarity and understanding.

Orwell realised the immense effect that society has on language and vice versa.  If all that we become and create grows from what we think about, then our thoughts are truly the most important things about us.

Amelia Mitchell is a 16-year-old Grade 11 student from Australia. She lives on a farm in rural New South Wales and enjoys spending time with her border collie, Bonnie.  Amelia enjoys visual arts, plays both the piano and violin and enjoys working part time in her local town. She is a writer, an Air Force cadet and has an avid interest in history.

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by Amelia Mitchell

What is the source of the tragic degradation of the English language which is apparent all around us today? Why, when new scientific discoveries, staggering architectural achievements, and the amazing rise in living standards for many are taking place throughout the world, is our once rich English language on its way to disintegration? 

[The English Language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.

George Orwell

Many believe that a degradation in a civilization or society’s method of communication and expression is due to the decline, or otherwise, of its thoughts and actions. One of these people is George Orwell. He explained in his essay on Politics and the English Language that when our thoughts are foolish, the disarray and futility of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts. Here he specified two key mistakes that are frequently made in English. Pretentious diction and the use of meaningless words.  To counter these problems we must really know the true meaning of the words which we use. One way in which to get rid of sloppy, or overly showy writing is simply to engage your mind and not take any shortcuts. 

Orwell then mentions a few questions to ask yourself while writing, which help combat these bad habits.

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
  5. Could I put it more shortly?

Orwell saw a way to remedy the rapid decline the English language is facing today. He viewed language as a tool used for revealing and communicating deep thought, not for vainly embellishing or even concealing it. 

However, is it really true that our thoughts affect so much about what we do? Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher and poet once said: “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”  

What we think about constantly is what we worship. What we worship is what we wish to become like. Our society and politics are made of individuals, and individuals have to worship something no matter what many would like to believe. Thus changes in our society are truly due to each individual’s thought process. This is why our Language is deteriorating. The corruption of our thoughts increases as we move further away from Him who is the Author of perfect communication, eloquence, clarity and understanding.

Orwell realised the immense effect that society has on language and vice versa.  If all that we become and create grows from what we think about, then our thoughts are truly the most important things about us.

Amelia Mitchell is a 16-year-old Grade 11 student from Australia. She lives on a farm in rural New South Wales and enjoys spending time with her border collie, Bonnie.  Amelia enjoys visual arts, plays both the piano and violin and enjoys working part time in her local town. She is a writer, an Air Force cadet and has an avid interest in history.