I have some issues with this essay. Rather than rewrite in comment form, I'll just post the narrative/essay that I wrote which explains them:
It was a bright warm day in September, and the clocks were striking thirteen. I walked into Cafe Tremulo and ordered an espresso before taking a seat, my laptop open. I’d just returned from my Rhetoric and Composition class, during which the instructor had assigned our next essay: a four-page analysis of George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.” Almost as soon as I began outlining, though, I was approached by a man who might charitably be described as tall, dark, and… British.
"Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice you have a copy of Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language.’” I had placed it next to my laptop, ready for quotation and reference. “I’ve got a bit of a personal connection to the essay, do you mind sharing what you thought of it?”
Under normal circumstances I probably wouldn’t have responded kindly to being approached by a stranger and asked about literature, but frankly at that point I just wanted a reason not to start writing my essay.
“Sure, why not? I can’t say I enjoyed the essay all that much,”–the stranger looked hurt–“but there were certainly some parts of it that I enjoyed. I have a number of comments on this copy, but my two main criticism are that Orwell tends to conflate clear language with prose that he enjoys, or finds interesting, and that he seems to have a somewhat elementary understanding of linguistics.”
“Well he’s certainly no linguist, but really, elementary? I’m not sure that’s fair.”
“Fine, a limited understanding then. I’m galen, by the way.”
“Eric. Good to meet you. Mind elaborating?”
Again, I was glad to have a reason not to write. I closed my laptop.
“Not at all. Which point was I going to begin with? Ah, yes, conflation. It seems to me that throughout a lot of the essay, Orwell refers to… actually, speaking of Orwell, can I ask, what exactly is your personal connection, Mr… Blair?”
“How did you…? Ah, I see. Yes, that’s me.”
“I inferred as much. I’ll try to be gentle. Anyway, as I was saying: you tend to speak in the more abstract portions of the essay as though you’re criticizing a lack of clarity in English; but when it comes to the concrete examples, I don’t see that lack at all. It seems to me that the essay would do better as a commentary on the decline of evocative prose. Does this make sense?”
“Yes, I suppose. Although I do think those examples were unclear.”
“That’s fair. But can you really claim that the assertion that ‘there is no real need for [...] foreign phrases,’ from page four, is motivated by a love of clarity? And here, another example, when you’re discussing your parody of Ecclesiastes on the fifth page: you criticize your parody for its lack of metaphor, which is, I think, a totally reasonable criticism– provided you’re open about the fact that metaphor is simply more pleasant to read. But instead you refer to the original text as ‘precise and detailed,’ a quality which your parody doesn’t lose at all. My point, then, is that it’s entirely possibly can communicate effectively using terribly ugly language. So we ought to criticize the communication’s ugliness, not its supposed ineffectiveness. Make sense?”
“I suppose. And your other criticism?”
“Right, your grasp of linguistics. It seems to me that you espouse a number of linguistic opinions that are almost categorically rejected by linguists. For one, you seem to think that people ought to prescribe ways of speaking, which is in opposition to the view of most linguists that the chief goal of linguistics is in describing how people speak on their own. But more importantly, you seem to support the idea of linguistic relativity, which holds that the language one speaks can affect one’s thought processes. And that’s just hogwash.”
“That’s a bit–”
“Let me finish. So back to prescriptivism. You mention on the first page is that ‘language is [...] an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.’ While I think that’s true to a certain extent, it also seems indicative of prescriptivism in that it implies an advocation of such shaping.”
“Wait a minute, that’s not totally fair. I said people tend to believe that ‘language is a natural growth and not an instrument’ etc. I’ll grant that my statement implied my own belief that the opposite is true, but please, quote me correctly.”
“Sorry, you’re right. But you also bring up my other problem with that clause. The fact of language’s role as an instrument that we affect through our usage has no bearing on whether or not language is a natural growth. I think you’ll find that most linguists will agree that language is both a natural growth and shaped by those who speak it. Beyond that, there’s also your almost barnacle-like clinging to archaic definitions. Really, you’re still insisting on ‘egregious’ as outstandingly good?”
“I… I have nothing to say for myself about that one.”
“Back to linguistic relativity, then. On page eight, you assert that ‘if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.’ Not only is this fallacious logic, it also sounds a heck of a lot like linguistic relativity. And you have to understand: LR– mind if I call it LR?”
“Not at all.”
“LR is one of the most universally rejected ideas in all linguistics! And you–”
“Hold on a second. ‘Most universally rejected’? I think you’ll find that most linguists actually agree with a mild form of LR, even if it is qualified.”
“Right, but LR as it’s commonly accepted refers to a difference in the substance or form of thought, not in truth or intelligence. Your LR makes a value judgment, which is totally rejected in social science.”
“Oh, I see. That makes sense, I suppose. So was there anything you enjoyed about the essay?"
“Sure! There were a couple parts I liked, but one of my favorites was the section about defending the indefensible. You know, ‘villages are bombarded [...]: this is called pacification.’ That sort of thing. That, in my opinion, was probably the purest part of the essay: it dealt explicitly with what you outlined in the introduction, which is the use of unclear language for political gain. So I loved that.”
“Thank you. I’m glad you found some part you agreed with.”
“Sure. And really, it was a fairly well-written essay. I tend to point out the negatives – that’s just my nature. Nice meeting you, Eric.”
“The same to you.”
With that, he stood up and sauntered out of the cafe. Once he’d gone, I took a sip of my coffee, reopened my laptop, and transcribed our conversation.