Eric Blair (no relation I believe to that other Blair who's currently running the UK) was born in India in 1903 and died in London at the age of 47 in 1950. He is better known by his pseudonym (pen name), George Orwell and one of his most famous novels, 1984 has introduced several expressions into the language among which the best known are: Room 101, Big Brother and proles - the word used to describe the workers of society, who were exploited by the dictator.
The significance of that particular year is really irrelevant as it is meant simply to denote some time in the future. Orwell wrote the book in 1948 and so he just changed the last two digits round. It is the story of a certain Winston Smith and his fight against a totalitarian regime determined to make him even persuade him to conform.
Now George Orwell was fascinated by language and wrote many essays on the subject and so it's not surprising that language plays an important part in the book. There is a lengthy description of what is called Newspeak in the novel - an artificial language designed to stop people thinking. The theory is that if you reduce someone's vocabulary to a minimum and change the meaning of well known words, you will gradually take control of their minds. I hasten to add that we're not trying out any experiments like this on our forums at www.english-test.net - at least I don't think we are. But back to George. In his Newspeak a single word like good can be adapted to convey six words. Why bother with «bad» when you can say «ungood»? Why use words like excellent and wonderful when you've got «plusgood»? Or if you really want to make that even stronger, what about «doubleplusgood»? That way goodness and badness go out of the window - disappear - and you've created six words by adding bits on to the base word «good». Frightening or what? But then what about the trend in texting on mobiles? Aren't there similarities?
This got me thinking. No, I won't get into «mobile bashing» (criticising mobile phones). I was thinking of something that's been around much longer and that is using the humble preposition to say everything for you. Shakespeare used it frequently. Lady Macbeth feels the guilt of the murders committed by her husband and sees blood on her hands as she cries: «Out damned spot! Out, I say!» And even worse in the play King Lear (and my apologies if you're just about to eat or have already just eaten), there is the blinding of Gloucester. His eyes are «gouged out» (dug out by hand) and the perpetrator of the act exclaims: «Out vile jelly!» In normal daily life we say: «I've been at it since first thing this morning - I've been working hard». If we haven't succeeded in completing what we'd hoped for the day, we explain that we are «somewhat behind». Sometimes the same preposition can take on two entirely different meanings. «I'm for it» is a case in point. It can mean you support an idea or a plan. Or it can mean you're going to get into trouble: «I forgot to lock the office door last night and we got burgled. When the boss arrives, I know I'll be for it»! In fashion and popularity famous people are said to «be in» when every one likes them or as we say, they are the flavour of the month or they can become forgotten and unpopular and then they're «well and truly out». And that reminds me that these little words can change into nouns «at the drop of a hat» - at a moment's notice. In this transformation we have the expression: «The ins and outs» often used in a negative sense as indicating that you don't know the details: «I can only give you a brief description of what took place. I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the ins and outs.» Double prepositions play their part, too. You can be «out of» it either because you've had too much to drink or something is too complicated for you to understand - both suggesting you don't follow what's happening. If someone asks: «What are you on about?» They're asking not very politely what you're trying to say. Possibly that may well be a question you are asking me. If that's the case, I'll thank you for your attention and leave. Or putting it «prepositionally» (my spell check doesn't like that word because I've just made it up). «I'm off.»
Before I really go, I'd like to remind you of the forums on the site. There are some very lively conversations taking place there every day. Not everyone agrees with what everyone says. It's really a sort of slice of life and well worth taking a look at. You don't have to say anything but it would be lovely if you did. And you can sign on here:
There you will be welcomed with a lovely smile by one of our moderators, Conchita. Go on, give it a go.
Yours, Alan Townend