Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Política y lenguaje en Orwell

En Politics and the English Language George Orwell nos da un ejemplo de un texto bíblico puesto en lenguaje moderno:

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one.
Pues definitivamente, el texto pierde todo su vigor si se lo traduce a un lenguaje moderno. Se convierte en un texto muerto. Para combatir este tipo de vicios, Orwell nos recomienda algunas reglas mínimas.
I think the following rules will cover most cases:

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.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.
Elements of Style de Strunk and White, muy usado por los economistas y tal vez en otras profesiones, sigue estos mismos principios. Pero el tema va más alla:
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. (...)

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them.
Bueno, tocaría leer el artículo completo de Orwell. De veras que da gusto y es muy revelador.


Martín said...

La primera vez que escuché el término eufemismo no fue en castellano sino en inglés (euphemism), en mi adolescencia, durante una clase de inglés en la que se leía casualmente unos párrafos de un texto de Orwell (imagino que habrá sido éste).

Incluso, noticias de diarios o documentos de algunos organismos internacionales suelen tener todo un metalenguaje plagado de eufemismos… Lo que dice Orwell sigue estando más vigente que nunca hoy en día.

Por ejemplo, en Economía, el término sub-empleo es un eufemismo, porque estás empleado o no, no hay términos medios, y lo demás son eufemismos… =) Pero ya es una opinión personal

Es más, el término «pacification» lo suelo escuchar con frecuencia en algunas cadenas noticiosas para describir lo que ocurre en Medio Oriente.

Más allá de la pluralidad de nuestras confesiones o ideologías, preocupa que se enmascare la realidad con estos metalenguajes, que muchas veces sugieren una nueva forma de totalitarismo, y no porque estemos necesariamente bajo un régimen estalinista.

Sí: definitivamente los eufemismos orwellianos están más vigentes que nunca. Debo leer el texto que recomiendas, de paso que refresco el inglés…


Carlos Torres Angulo said...
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