Similes and Metaphors – Word Wednesday Grammar Lesson

PowerWordsGood evening, grammar lovers! It has been some time since we had a “Word Wednesday” feature that also tied in with English grammar, and I think this “Blue Book” lesson on similes and metaphors serves that purpose well.

And, while we are at it, we can have a little fun with this lesson too. After all, grammar does not have to boring! Press on ahead with the lesson – and enjoy a good laugh at some bad examples of similes and metaphors!

Similes and Metaphors

A form of expression using like or as, in which one thing is compared to another which it only resembles in one or a small number of ways.

Her hair was like silk.
She sings like an angel.
He runs like a gazelle.
This meat is as dry as a bone.

A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison.

He’s a tiger when he’s angry.
His brother is an Einstein.
Your room is a pigpen.
She is a walking dictionary.

According to the internet, English teachers from across the country can submit amusing similes and metaphors found in high school essays for an annual competition. We don’t know that such a competition really exists, but these samples, even if awful, are still creative.

1. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

2. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

3. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

4. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

5. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

6. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

7. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

8. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

9. Shots rang out, as shots are known to do.

10. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

Source: Similes and Metaphors – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on June 3, 2020 at 10:31 PM  Comments (2)  

Word Wednesday – Is this the most powerful word in the English language?

In these early days of 2020, let’s have a Word Wednesday feature.

A recent fascinating BBC Culture article focuses on the word “the.” Yes, that little three-letter word, meaningless in itself but packing a powerful punch, even a “wow” factor at times.

What makes “the” so special and powerful? Read on, but start with these paragraphs:

But although ‘the’ has no meaning in itself, “it seems to be able to do things in subtle and miraculous ways,” says Michael Rosen, poet and author. Consider the difference between ‘he scored a goal’ and ‘he scored the goal’. The inclusion of ‘the’ immediately signals something important about that goal. Perhaps it was the only one of the match? Or maybe it was the clincher that won the league? Context very often determines sense.

There are many exceptions regarding the use of the definite article, for example in relation to proper nouns. We wouldn’t expect someone to say ‘the Jonathan’ but it’s not incorrect to say ‘you’re not the Jonathan I thought you were’. And a football commentator might deliberately create a generic vibe by saying, ‘you’ve got the Lampards in midfield’ to mean players like Lampard.

The use of ‘the’ could have increased as trade and manufacture grew in the run-up to the industrial revolution, when we needed to be referential about things and processes. ‘The’ helped distinguish clearly and could act as a quantifier, for example, ‘the slab of butter’.

This could lead to a belief that ‘the’ is a workhorse of English; functional but boring. Yet Rosen rejects that view. While primary school children are taught to use ‘wow’ words, choosing ‘exclaimed’ rather than ‘said’, he doesn’t think any word has more or less ‘wow’ factor than any other; it all depends on how it’s used. “Power in language comes from context… ‘the’ can be a wow word,” he says.

This simplest of words can be used for dramatic effect. At the start of Hamlet, a guard’s utterance of ‘Long live the King’ is soon followed by the apparition of the ghost: ‘Looks it not like the King?’ Who, the audience wonders, does ‘the’ refer to? The living King or a dead King? This kind of ambiguity is the kind of ‘hook’ that writers use to make us quizzical, a bit uneasy even. “‘The’ is doing a lot of work here,” says Rosen.

For the rest of the story, visit the link below. Remember, every word counts – definite articles too!

Source: BBC – Culture – Is this the most powerful word in the English language?

Homonyms and a Pop Quiz on All vs.. al– Words

It’s a new month and “Word Wednesday,” so let’s bring some grammar lesson time with a word focus into this post and check in on some homonyms, compliments of

This lesson goes back to September and focuses on the use of “two or more words having the same spelling or pronunciation but different meanings and origins.” This particular homonym lesson looks at several all and al- words that are often confused.

Homonyms often cause confusion. Here are a few tricky ones, mostly all vs. al- words, clarified for you.

Allot vs. ALot  The word allot means “to parcel out.”
Example: The company will allot each of us a cell phone.

The expression a lot means “many” or “much.”
We had a lot of fun.
A lot of people showed up for the concert.

Note that even though you may see alot written by a lot of people, there is no such word.


Allowed vs. Aloud  Allowed means “gave permission to.”
Example: You will be allowed to enter the theater in five minutes.

Aloud means “said out loud; spoken.”
Example: She read her work aloud at the poetry slam.


All ready vs. Already  These two words may sound alike when you say them, but they have distinct meanings.
All ready means “everything or everyone is now ready.”
Example: We are all ready to go.

Already means “previously” or “earlier than expected.”
Is summer over already? (earlier than expected)
I did the dishes already. (previously)


All right vs. Alright  The word alright is a casual form of the phrase all right; however, alright is not considered a correct spelling in formal writing.


Altar vs. Alter  An altar is a  pedestal, usually of a religious kind.
Example: They exchanged wedding vows at the altar of the church.

Alter means “to change.”
Example: Please don’t alter your plans.


All together vs. Altogether  All together, two words, means “in a group.”
We are all together in the photo.
It is wonderful to be all together to celebrate your birthday.

Altogether is an adverb meaning “entirely, completely, everything included.”
It is not altogether his fault. (entirely)
We had an altogether wonderful day. (completely)
Altogether, the groceries cost thirty dollars. (everything included)

And here is your pop quiz, the answers to which may be found at the link below – but don’t cheat!

Pop Quiz

1. We had to altar/alter our wedding plans because of the unseasonable rain.

2. I’m not sure that your conclusion is all together/altogether correct.

3. We were all together/altogether for our family reunion.

4. When will you be all ready/already to go to the party?

5. Are you all ready/already dressed to go to the party?

6. I like chocolate ice cream a lot/allot/alot.

7. Does that university a lot/allot/alot many scholarships?

8. Are you allowed/aloud to go off campus during lunch?

9. If you practice your speech allowed/aloud, you will memorize it more easily.

10. Tom said he felt all right/alright after the car accident.

Source: Allot vs. A Lot, Allowed vs. Aloud, All ready vs. Already, All right vs. Alright, Altar vs. Alter, All together vs. Altogether – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on November 6, 2019 at 9:25 PM  Leave a Comment  

Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structures: Part Three

Last month for our ongoing grammar lessons we looked at Part 2 of’s mini-series on “Savvy Sentence Structures.” With a new month here, we ought to finish that series by examining the third part of that series. This part focuses on grammar and punctuation, but the first part reviews the four kinds of sentence structure:

  • Simple sentence
  • Compound sentence
  • Complex sentence
  • Complex-compound sentence

If you want to review these sentence forms again, click on the link below and read the first part of this post. But here is the rest of it – how to use these four types in your own writing. You will find that just as you benefit from and enjoy reading a variety of sentence structures, so you can also learn to use this variety in your own writing for other’s benefit and enjoyment.

To complete our review of sentence structures, we’ll next want to consider how to use them together to achieve greater style in our writing.

Applying the Four Types

Good prose skillfully mixes the four sentence types. It also varies their lengths.

Consider the following text using all simple sentences:

Bernice loves the rodeo. Her father was a rancher. Their family had many animals. She grew up around horses. Her father often let her ride them. She became very comfortable with them. In time she could even stay on the broncos. She also learned to rope calves.

This format is forthright, but an overuse of or overreliance on one sentence type can make writing choppy and droning. Let’s see how compound structures can help break the monotony.

Bernice loves the rodeo [simple]. Her father was a rancher, and their family had many animals [compound with conjunction]. She grew up around horses; her father often let her ride them [compound with semicolon]. She became very comfortable with them, and in time she could even stay on the broncos [compound with conjunction]. She also learned to rope calves [simple].

A little bit better. Now let’s look at adding a complex sentence for enhancing effect.

Bernice loves the rodeo [simple]. Because her father was a rancher, their family had many animals [complex]. She grew up around horses; her father often let her ride them [compound]. She became very comfortable with them, and in time she could even stay on the broncos [compound]. She also learned to rope calves [simple].

Now let’s insert a compound-complex structure to complete our transformation from a mechanical, repetitive paragraph to a more stylized one with all four sentence types.

Bernice loves the rodeo [simple]. Because her father was a rancher, their family had many animals [complex]. She grew up around horses, and her father often let her ride them, which made her very comfortable with them [compound-complex]. In time she could even stay on the broncos; she also learned to rope calves [compound].

Crisp composition can take many forms. You might have a short paragraph of all simple sentences followed by one with a few complex sentences. You can start content with two compound sentences and finish it with a compound-complex sentence. The possibilities are endless: You need only understand the four types and practice their combined sound and flow to become a master of melodious writing.

Source: Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structures: Part Three – Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on July 17, 2019 at 10:58 PM  Leave a Comment  

Savvy Sentence Structures – Part Two


Last month we began to take a look at a three-part series recently posted on its website under the heading “Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structure.” In May we posted the first of these and tonight we will reference the second part.

This second part treats two more types of sentence structure in English: complex and compound-complex. If it’s been a while since you have paid attention to this matter of grammar, then this is a great time to review it, and become a better writer and speaker.

O, and don’t forget to take the “pop” quiz at the end!

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence has one independent main clause and at least one dependent clause, a clause that cannot stand alone as a sentence. Dependent clauses usually begin with a word such as when, because, or that to indicate their reliance.

when we go to school
because it is raining
that are collected

In complex sentences, dependent clauses function as sentence modifiers:

When we go to school (dependent clause), we will receive the assignment (main clause).
We cannot go out (main clause) because it is raining (dependent clause).
The team owners give the star all of the accolades (main clause) that should be shared among several players (dependent clause), which causes unspoken tension in the locker room (dependent clause).

Compound-Complex Sentence

A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent main clauses and at least one dependent clause:

While Sheila painted (dependent clause), Ricardo installed the new shelves (main clause); they wanted to finish as much as they could before dinner (main clause).
The game stops (main clause) if it rains (dependent clause), but it resumes (main clause) if the rain lets up (dependent clause).
The people [who are still in line (dependent clause)] will have to wait another hour (main clause), and even then they might not get in (main clause).

Avoiding Loose/Protracted Sentences

Complex sentences give us a tool for avoiding loose and protracted compound constructions similar to those we considered in Part One. Such constructions can occur when we string multiple clauses together.

Loose/Protracted: The Amazon rainforest is the world’s biggest, and it is larger than the next two largest rainforests combined, and it covers an area about the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States.
Better as Complex: The Amazon rainforest, which is the world’s biggest, is larger than the next two rainforests combined, covering an area about the size of the forty-eight contiguous United States. 

Loose/Protracted: She is a prolific corporate attorney, and she earns a notable salary, but she works long hours, and she has little time on the weekends. 
Better as Compound-Complex: She is a prolific corporate attorney who earns a notable salary, but she works long hours, leaving little time on the weekends.

Published in: on June 19, 2019 at 10:17 PM  Comments (1)  

Savvy Sentence Structures – Part 1

Pulitzer-quote has started a three-part series titled “Becoming Savvy with Sentence Structure,” and tonight we’ll post the first of these.

This one treats the first two main types of sentence structure in English: simple and compound. If it’s been a while since you have paid attention to this matter of grammar, then this is a great time to review it, and become a better writer and speaker.

And when you are done reading and reviewing these points, you can take a “pop quiz” found here at the main website.

The art of writing resembles any trade that begins with the basics and evolves into skillful applications of them. A key component of precise and eloquent composition is understanding sentence structures.

English comprises four foundational sentence constructions: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. In part one of our discussion, we’ll review simple and compound sentences.

Simple Sentence

A simple sentence has one subject and one verb. It does not have a dependent (subordinate) clause, one that cannot stand alone as a sentence (e.g., when the boys return). Simple sentences also may include parts of speech such as direct and indirect objects, adjectives, adverbs, and infinitive and prepositional phrases.

Dogs (subject) bark (verb).
Regina (subject) gave (verb) her sister (indirect object) a card (direct object).
Antonio (subject) painted (verb) his old bike (direct object) red (adjective) yesterday (adverb).
Inga’s brown dog (subject) likes (verb) to sleep (infinitive phrase) on his side (prepositional phrase).

The subject (indicated by a single underline in the three sentences that follow), the verb (bold), or both may be compound in a simple sentence:

The moon and the stars came into view.
The pitcher threw six innings and hit a double.
The king and the queen each raised a hand and waved.

We can change syntactical positions in a simple sentence:

Above the law they are not.
There was no response to the question. (In this sentence, the word there is an expletive, a filler word for emphasizing the phrase no response to the question; without the expletive, the simple sentence would be No response to the question was given.)
Her parting glare he ignored.

Simple sentences can be further categorized as statements, commands, requests, questions, and exclamations:

Statement: You write well.
Command: Write well.
Request: Would you please write well?
Question: Do you write well?
Exclamation: You write well!

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence has at least two main (i.e., independent) clauses joined by a conjunction and a comma or by a semicolon:

Antonio painted his old bike red yesterday, and he will paint his scooter the same color tomorrow.
She writes well, but she is still improving at math.
The dreams of my youth have passed; the hopes of my future await.

For strong technique, we want to avoid compound sentences with loose and protracted constructions. This can sometimes happen when we string multiple clauses together.

Loose/Protracted: Angelique went to the store, and then she stopped at the post office, and next she picked up the kids.
Better (simple sentence with a compound predicate, i.e., verb or verb phrase): Angelique went to the store, stopped at the post office, and picked up the kids.

Loose/Protracted: The book was on the table, and Jason saw it, and he picked it up and started reading it.
Better (two independent clauses joined by a semicolon): Jason saw the book on the table; he picked it up and started reading it.

Loose/Protracted: They owned the team, and they were ambitious people, and they invested profits back into the franchise.
Better (consolidated simple sentence): The ambitious team owners invested profits back into the franchise.

Published in: on May 7, 2019 at 10:45 PM  Leave a Comment  

Nuggets from Ol’ Dizzy (Dean, that is)


Last week’s entry was a tribute to good baseball, bad English, and the man who embodied them both – Dizzy Dean. As we have officially entered the baseball season, it makes sense to have a post on America’s pastime and still have a grammar lesson – even if the lesson is in what not to say, English-wise. I ain’t kidding either.

So have fun with this little tribute to Ol’ Dizzy – a great pitcher from the past, but a poor grammarian. Here’s one of his classic statements: “I only went to the third grade because my father only went to the fourth and I didn’t want to pass him.”

And did I mention he played for the Chicago Cubs (1938-42), including in the 1938 World Series? (Yes, they lost to the NY Yankees, to keep their winless Series streak alive. But you do remember 2016, right?!)

Nuggets from Ol’ Diz

Let’s welcome baseball season with this item by our late veteran copy editor and word nerd Tom Stern.

Baseball’s back. I realize a lot of people don’t care. To them, sports fans are knuckle draggers who probably also read comic books while chewing gum with their mouths open.

But baseball isn’t called “the grand old game” for nothing; it’s been a staple of American popular culture since the 19th century. Renowned authors from Ring Lardner to Bernard Malamud to John Updike have sung its praises.

But now let’s talk about Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean—because not many people do anymore. The Hall of Fame pitcher from the Deep South would have been 109 years old this past January. “Ol’ Diz” was a tall, rangy right-hander who was discovered on a Texas sandlot. During the Great Depression, an era of fearsome sluggers and high-scoring games, Dean dominated with an unhittable fastball and unshakable self-confidence. Of his cockiness he once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”

From 1933 to ’36, Dean put together four spectacular seasons. He won 30 games in 1934, a feat that has been accomplished only once since. Diz was beaned in the ’34 World Series by an infielder’s throw while sliding into second base. A newspaper headline the next day said, “X-ray of Dean’s Head Shows Nothing.”

He went on to become a popular radio and TV sportscaster who visited mayhem upon the language to the delight—sometimes outrage—of his listeners.

The St. Louis Board of Education tried to yank Diz off the air. His response: “Let the teachers teach English and I will teach baseball. There is a lot of people in the United States who say ‘isn’t,’ and they ain’t eating.”

Dean’s calculated simplemindedness led to on-air pronouncements such as: “He nonchalantly walks back to the dugout in disgust” and “Don’t fail to miss tomorrow’s game.” Both sentences are variations on his clueless-rube routine: In the first one, he uses “nonchalantly” in place of “slowly” (the logical choice). Since both can mean “unhurriedly,” he figures they must be interchangeable. In the second, he makes us all dizzy trying to navigate three negatives (“don’t,” “fail,” “miss”)—whereupon we realize he just told us to miss tomorrow’s game!

One of Diz’s most infamous butcheries was, “He slud into third.” Dean vehemently defended “slud” over “slid,” insisting the latter “just ain’t natural…‘Slud’ is something more than ‘slid.’ It means sliding with great effort.”

In his prime, Diz once said, “I know who’s the best pitcher I ever see and it’s old Satchel Paige, that big, lanky colored boy.” And this: “If Satchel and I were pitching on the same team, we would clinch the pennant by July fourth and go fishing until World Series time.” Dean made these statements a decade before African-Americans integrated major-league baseball in 1947. Reading those two quotes, I was heartened by the generosity of spirit peeking out from behind Dean’s shroud of buffoonery.


Published in: on April 11, 2019 at 10:46 PM  Leave a Comment  

Checking In on Worn-Out Words and Phrases: First Quarter 2019 |

It has been a while since we posted a item, so on this “Word Wednesday” let’s do this one that focuses on good grammar through good word usage.

This particular article adds to‘s ongoing lists of “worn out words and phrases.” This one covers the first quarter of this new year. And, as you will see from this list, these are indeed some that need to be put away and replaced with better words and phrases – which they also suggest here.

Read the introduction below, review the list, compare it with your own vocabulary in speech and writing, and see what changes you can to make to bring clarity and precision to your English.

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” Aristotle once said, and the same holds true for language. If we detect an empty lexical space because we feel existing words no longer occupy it well, we will look to fill it, often with something that seems or sounds fresh within our current culture and era.

For a time, we might embrace those updates to communication: They can make us feel original, cool, connected to the zeitgeist. Often, current language style will reduce formality of writing and speech through abbreviation, fusion, or invention of words. We assign labels for many as well: catch phrase, buzz word, lingo, parlance.

As we’re all aware, however, whether in fashion, music, cars, or language, trends come and go. Those with enough substance and utility might hang on; the others will simply complete their life cycles and then perhaps straggle a bit before fading into obscurity.

With you, we form a community that is focused on an optimal use of English. We therefore find it fitting to monitor words and phrases that have grown old or stale or may do so soon.

For a review of the worn-out words and phrases we’ve compiled to date, you can visit any of our four preceding articles from 2017 and 2018:

Worn-Out Words and Phrases
Worn-Out Words and Phrases (Follow-up)
Worn-Out Words and Phrases: Resolving to Keep Writing Fresh in 2018
Still on the Stakeout for Worn-Out Words & Phrases

The following table includes our latest additions to words and phrases on our radar of overuse or untenability so far in 2019. In some cases, you might still consider some of them useful or relevant when writing or speaking. If however you’re particular about articulation that will endure rather than just conform to current style, you might consider alternatives that have maintained their lasting positions in English.


Alternatives in
Careful Writing
in the wheelhouse (prep. phrase) identifying something or someone as being in a position of strength or skill skill, strength, specialization (use nouns instead of the phrase)
in the books (prep. phrase) noted, completed noted, done, completed, finished
wrap one’s head around (verb phrase) contemplate, understand consider, reflect, contemplate, ponder, mull over, understand
thought leader (noun) subject expert whose ideas and opinions influence other people, especially in business leader, influencer, subject expert, specialist
ghost (verb) disappear or abandon, especially as it applies to leaving a relationship leave, disappear, abandon, flee
epic (adj.) impressive, very good memorable, impressive, exceptional, outstanding
so ye-ah/ya-uh (interj.) “well, okay,” “alrightee then” (strike as unnecessary)
I can’t even (interj.) I am losing patience, at a loss for words, annoyed about something (strike as unnecessary)
for real (interj.) serious, legitimate, really true, good, great(!)
It’s lit (idiomatic clause) something exciting is happening and you’ll want to be there (strike as unnecessary)
woke (adj.) aware of current affairs, enlightened aware, current, heard about it, enlightened
killing it (verb phrase) excelling at something achieving, excelling, doing great
suh, sup (interj.) what’s up? how are you, what are you doing
cray (adj.) crazy crazy, strange, silly, wacky
troll (verb) follow others online, especially on social media, to criticize them or otherwise smear their image or opinion (noun) one who does so (verb) hassle, heckle, hound, pester, disrupt (noun) heckler, hound, pest, antagonist
said no one ever (idiomatic clause [sarcasm]) negation of almost any statement— e.g., I love shoveling heavy snow…said no one ever. don’t, do not
as to whether (conj.) (unnecessarily wordy expression of whether) whether
necessitate (verb) bloated word for require call for, entail, require
on account of (prep. phrase) because of because of, due to, owing to
with all due respect (prep. phrase) polite set-up for I disagree (strike as unnecessary—what follows is often not an expression of respect)
It’s not brain surgery (idiomatic clause) the item at hand is not difficult it’s simple, easy, not challenging
get your ducks in a row (idiomatic clause) complete preparations, become efficient and well organized plan, prepare, organize, get organized
play hardball (verb phrase) be serious or aggressive in response resist, push back, not cooperate

Source: Checking In on Worn-Out Words and Phrases: First Quarter 2019 |

Published in: on February 13, 2019 at 10:34 PM  Leave a Comment  

GrammarBook Year-End Quiz (2018)

Today’s email contained a great review quiz on the grammar lessons they featured in 2018. Even though we did not by any means highlight all of these lessons, we hope you were encouraged to learn a little grammar (or re-learn, as the case may be). And taking the quiz will show you that it is never too late to learn even more.

So, take the quiz, review your grammar, and if you do poorly, don’t fret; you have all of 2019 to get on board and make this year a better grammar-learning year.

Here is their introduction to the quiz, and then the first few items from the review (find the rest at the link below).

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired.

We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review is always a great way to revisit and further retain what we’ve examined.

The 2018 master quiz consists of twenty-five sentences addressing subjects from many of this year’s GrammarBook articles. Choose your answers and then check them against our answer key that follows the quiz.

Each answer also includes the title and date of the article that focused on the topic. Because some answers require particular knowledge from months past, please feel free to refer to their associated article if you wish to refresh your memory.

1. When I was in high school, I [would / used to] lift weights in the gym almost every day. Would vs. Used To 1-24

2. When I was a kid, I [would / used to] feel like every day was a new adventure. Would vs. Used To 1-24

3. Juan received the highest score on the test [since / because] he studied the most. Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: As, Because, and Since 2-21

4. [Since / Because] Rich was the most qualified, he was offered the promotion first. Tackling More Tricky Word Choices: As, Because, and Since 2-21

5. She is perhaps the most [well spoken / well-spoken] project manager to have ever led the initiative. Are We Hyphenating Well? 4-4

Source: Year-End Quiz |

Published in: on January 9, 2019 at 10:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday Language Feature: Orwell and Newspeak

This morning I received the weekly email, and it was a dandy. The title is “Orwell and Newspeak,” and takes off on George Orwell’s famous novel 1984. The author (Tom Stern) uses Orwell’s concept of “Newspeak” to address the decline of English and the corruption of the meaning of words in our own day, a reality Orwell’s novel prophesied.

Below is the beginning of the GrammarBook article; find the rest at the link at the end. And be reminded that language has power and words have meaning. Use them carefully!

It’s not just professors and snobs who deplore the decline of English. The great essayist and novelist George Orwell (1903-50) had much to say about the corruption of language—and how it enables tyranny. The warning was clear: a distracted populace with diminished reading, writing, and speaking skills is vulnerable.

Orwell’s 1984, published in 1949, is a demoralizing post-World War II vision of global totalitarianism. It is set in London—the British Isles are now part of a superstate called Oceania, which also includes the Americas. Oceania is always at war with either of the world’s other two superstates, Eurasia and Eastasia.

In Oceania, “the Party,” a cadre of megalomaniacal despots, wields absolute power. This regime has destroyed society as we know it, setting children against parents and wives against husbands, enforcing unwavering loyalty to “Big Brother,” the potentate whose Stalin-like countenance stares out balefully from posters no one can avoid.

One of the Party’s acknowledged goals is the end of independent thought, which it hopes to bring about by instituting one of its pet projects: a language called “Newspeak.” Orwell worked Newspeak out in exhaustive detail and added an appendix at the end of 1984 titled “The Principles of Newspeak.” The brief essay describes how the Party dumbed down standard English, or “Oldspeak,” and mangled and perverted it into a streamlined, regimented version of English in which complexity and nuance were impossible.

Newspeak was designed to make a heretical thought “literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.” The Party abolished all but the most mundane, unequivocal, easy-to-say words. Its aim was to render speech “as nearly as possible independent of consciousness” so that communication might become “a gabbling style of speech, at once staccato and monotonous,” allowing speakers to “spray forth the correct opinions as automatically as a machine gun spraying forth bullets.” And “the texture of the words, with their harsh sound and a certain willful ugliness … assisted the process still further.”

Source: Orwell and Newspeak – Grammar and Punctuation