Orwell: Why I write

George Orwell
George Orwell

I was re-reading George Orwell’s famous essay, Politics and the English language, on his birth anniversary three days ago. He was born at Motihari in the eastern Indian state of Bihar on June 25, 1903, and died in London on January 21, 1950, a few months after the publication of his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell is best known for his dystopian novels, Animal Farm, published in August 1945, and Nineteen Eighty-Four, which came out in June 1949. But I like best his essays.

Orwell’s rules for writing

In Politics and the English Language, published in 1946, Orwell wrote:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Continue reading “Orwell: Why I write”

Roget and his Thesaurus

Peter Mark Roget
Peter Mark Roget

Peter Mark Roget was born on this day, January 18, in 1779. For a man of his time, he lived to a remarkable old age. He was 90 years old when he died on September 12, 1869. His name lives to this day, in Roget’s Thesaurus. Dr Samuel Johnson is remembered for, among other things, compiling the first popular English dictionary. Roget created something almost equally valuable – the thesaurus, “a book that contains lists of words that have similar meanings”,  to quote the online Macmillan Dictionary.

If Johnson’s Dictionary – first published in 1755 – was a product of the Age of Enlightenment, defining words and giving their meanings, Roget’s Thesaurus – originally published in 1852 – was a creation of the Victorian age, the age of empire and a great many inventions. While there had been dictionaries before Johnson’s, Roget’s thesaurus was something new. Continue reading “Roget and his Thesaurus”