Peter Jones

Language barriers

Peter Jones says that universities are becoming factories of jargon and illiteracy

In his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946), George Orwell laments the corruption of the English language in postwar society. Everywhere he finds pompous phrases designed to sound weighty (‘render inoperative’, meaning ‘break’); Latin- or Greek-based words where simpler words will do (‘ameliorate’ for ‘improve’, ‘clandestine’ for ‘secret’); words which have lost their meaning (‘fascism’, meaning ‘something not desirable’); padding to give an impression of depth (‘this is a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind’); clichés (‘ring the changes on’, ‘play into the hands of’, ‘toe the line’, ‘explore every avenue’).

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