This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Nuts and Bolts: domestic bliss.

Good old George Orwell, always trying to set the world to rights. Here, here, here and here are his first four rules for good writing.

And this is his fifth one:

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Orwell wrote these rules in 1947, and his hope was that they would halt a decline in the English language, which he thought was connected to the 'political chaos' of his time.

Plus ça change...

...whoops! Sorry. That's foreign, isn't it. Perhaps I should have said nothing changes. Except that nothing changes doesn't have the same wistfully charming double-edge as plus ça change, with its unspoken plus c'est la meme chose: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The trouble is that with foreign words something nearly always gets lost in translation.

And of course everything is changing, changing, fearfully changing. Huge masses of people are moving across continents and then hopping over onto new ones, taking their languages with them just in case they prove useful. And they are proving useful. English, never pure and, heaven knows, never simple, is accumulating words and grammar from twenty different directions at once.

 And into this mix comes science, with all its mad inventors madly inventing things we never dreamed we needed, and with them must come new words, for how will we know to buy something if we can tell from its name that it isn't doing anything useful? And although the mad inventors start off creating jargon, the most useful jargon soon hardens into science, and the most useful science soon hardens into English.

It's chaos, but we have no choice about it. If we're to keep even a fingerhold on the madly spinning world, then we must learn, I think, to enjoy a bit of chaos.

Plus ça change...

Word To Use Today: chaos. This word is thousands of years old and was originally the Ancient Greek word, khaos.

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