sâmbătă, 11 decembrie 2010

PROXIMATE AND ULTIMATE CAUSES-Processing symbolic information from a visual display: Interference from an irrelevant directional cue.

Non-Diagnostic information: information that is irrelevant to a behavior

Comparative psychologists emphasize studies of the genetic, neural, and hormonal bases of animal behavior.

explore how animals receive information,
and the processes and nature of the behavior patterns constituting
the animals responses to their surroundings, ethologica, depicting character

study the behavior of closely related species to consider the
evolution and origin of certain behavior patterns.

animal communication, mating behavior, and social behavior.
Behavioral ecology emphasizes the ecological aspects of animal
behavior. Predator-prey interactions, foraging strategies, reproductive
strategies, habitat selection, intraspecific and
interspecific competition, and social behavior are topics of interest
to behavioral ecologists.
Sociobiology is the study of the evolution of social behavior.
It combines many aspects of ethology and behavioral ecology. Sociobiologists
emphasize the importance of natural selection on individuals
living in groups.Behavioral scientists frequently ask, “Why do animals do what
they do?” More immediate ecological and physiological causes of
behavior, such as eating to satisfy hunger, are called proximate
causes. Another level of causation in behavior occurs on the evolutionary
time scale and is that of ultimate causes. For example, a display
not only attracts a mate, but also increases the likelihood of
passing genetic information to the next generation.

application of human characteristics to anything not human. In
observations of animals, assigning human feelings to animal behavior
is not likely to be accurate, especially with invertebrate
animals. Consider the example of placing an earthworm on a fishhook.
Does the fishhook hurt the earthworm, causing it to writhe
in pain? Both of the descriptive words, hurt and pain, are based on
human experience and conscious awareness. A better explanation
that reduces the anthropomorphic interpretation is that placing
the earthworm on the hook stimulates certain receptors which
generate nerve impulses that travel along reflex neural circuits.
The impulses stimulate muscles that allow the worm to wriggle in
an attempt to escape from the hook. This explanation more
closely describes what has been observed and does not attempt to
suggest what the earthworm “feels.”

Development of a normal behavior pattern requires the genes that
code for the formation of the structures and organs involved in the
behavior. For example, in vertebrates, normal locomotion movements
will not occur without proper development and growth of
the limbs. This process requires some interaction with the animal’s
environment because proper nourishment, water balance,
and other factors must be maintained for normal development.

Some behavior patterns appear only after a specific developmental
stage or time.

During maturation, performance of the behavior
pattern improves as parts of the nervous system and other structures
complete development.

A classic example is tail movement in frog embryos that are near hatching. While still in the egg membranes, they start moving their tails as they would if they
were swimming, and movement coordination improves with time.
These improved movements are due to maturation, not practice
or experience.

Interaction of inherited (i.e., instinctive) and learned components
shapes a number of behavior patterns.

For example, young socialists raised in isolation without the chance to catch live prey did not attack a white boy placed with them, unless the boy tried to escape.

At first, their attacks were not efficient, but after some experience,
they were seizing prey by the neck and rapidly killing them.

learning refines inherited components of this behavior.

joi, 4 noiembrie 2010

Late Pleistocene Megafaunal Extinction Consistent With YDB Impact Hypothesis at Younger Dryas Onset

three diamond allotropes (cubic diamond, lonsdaleite, and n-diamond) in an extraterrestrial (ET) impact layer (the YDB), dating to the Younger Dryas onset at 12.9 ka

rounded to highly angular, and range in size from 1 to 1700 nm with most between 1 and 50 nm. Concentrations are up to 3700 ppb, equaling more than 1 billion diamonds per cm3 of sediment (comparable to K/T levels of 3600 ppb).

No diamonds were detected above or below the YDB layer at any site tested.
These diamonds could not have formed from volcanic activity, because they combust at temperatures above 500°C in the presence of atmospheric levels of oxygen, and micrometeoritic diamonds are similarly destroyed. Also, the diamonds could not have accumulated from the constant rain of micrometeoritic debris, because multi-billions occur in YDB layer samples, but yet none have been found in non-YDB strata dating from 55,000 RCYBP to present.











YDB diamonds are associated with abundance peaks in magnetic spherules, carbon spherules, soot, and iridium, which can peak in impact layers of known ET events, such as the K/T and the 1908 airburst at Tunguska, Siberia. Furthermore, a high proportion of the nanodiamonds are found deeply embedded within spherical particles of melted plant resins, a fact inexplicable by any normal terrestrial process. Altogether, this evidence strongly suggests that the widespread and abundant nanodiamonds constrained to the thin YDB layer resulted from a major ET impact/airburst at 12.9 ka.

sâmbătă, 30 octombrie 2010

The MELTING Ice Shelf

In August trinetrogon air photographs of the ice shelves
were taken from an altitude of 6km (around 20 000’).
In July comprehensive air photograph coverage of the ice
shelves was taken along north-south flight
lines at an altitude of 9km (30 OOO’).
In July flights along the north coast included photography
of only the ice fronts of ice shelves.

The undulating surface of parallel troughs
and ridges is very clear as meltwater in the troughs creates a
darker tone than the ridges.
The 2.5 m amplitude, 300 m
wavelength undulations are interrupted by both rehealed and
open fractures that are partly filled with water. The fracturing of
the ice shelf has created a open ice that appears to be only weakly attached, probably in part by sea
ice, to the ice shelf .
A comparison clearly shows that the front of Ice
Shelf underwent some change

vineri, 27 august 2010

Всё хорошо, прекрасная маркиза

Всё хорошо, прекрасная маркиза THE RISE OF THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE

Sermeq Kujalleq - Ice mélange dynamics and implications for terminus stability, Jakobshavn Isbræ

The Sermeq Kujalleq or Jakobshavn glacier, the second largest in Greenland, has collapsed and shed a 4.35 miles chunk of ice. Jakobshavn drains 7% of Greenland’s Ice Sheet area, and therefore, has the largest drainage basin of all glaciers in Greenland and the Northern Hemisphere.
There has been notably warm weathers in the Ilulissat region this summer and including last winter and a nice warm winter....is arriving? 2010-2100

The mélange behaves as a weak, granular ice shelf whose rheology varies seasonally. Sea ice growth in winter stiffens the mélange matrix by binding iceberg clasts together, ultimately preventing the calving of full-glacier-thickness icebergs (the dominant style of calving) and enabling a several kilometer terminus advance. Each summer the mélange weakens and the terminus retreats. The mélange remains strong enough, however, to be largely unaffected by ocean currents (except during calving events) and to influence the timing and sequence of calving events. Furthermore, motion of the mélange is highly episodic: between calving events, including the entire winter, it is pushed down fjord by the advancing terminus (at ∼40 m d−1), whereas during calving events it can move in excess of 50 × 103 m d−1 for more than 10 min.
By influencing the timing of calving events, the mélange contributes to the glacier's several kilometer seasonal advance and retreat; the associated geometric changes of the terminus area affect glacier flow. Furthermore, a force balance analysis shows that large-scale calving is only possible from a terminus that is near floatation, especially in the presence of a resistive ice mélange.
The net annual retreat of the glacier is therefore limited by its proximity to floatation, potentially providing a physical mechanism for a previously described near-floatation criterion for calving.

sâmbătă, 21 august 2010

Gee orge Or well Boys' weeklies

You never walk far through any poor quarter in any big town without coming upon a small newsagent's shop. The general appearance of these shops is always very much the same: a few posters for the Daily Mail and the News of the World outside, a poky little window with sweet-bottles and packets of Players, and a dark interior smelling of liquorice allsorts and festooned from floor to ceiling with vilely printed twopenny papers, most of them with lurid cover-illustrations in three colours.

Except for the daily and evening papers, the stock of these shops hardly overlaps at all with that of the big news-agents. Their main selling line is the twopenny weekly, and the number and variety of these are almost unbelievable. Every hobby and pastime — cage-birds, fretwork, carpentering, bees, carrier-pigeons, home conjuring, philately, chess — has at least one paper devoted to it, and generally several. Gardening and livestock-keeping must have at least a score between them. Then there are the sporting papers, the radio papers, the children's comics, the various snippet papers such as Tit-bits, the large range of papers devoted to the movies and all more or less exploiting women's legs, the various trade papers, the women's story-papers

(the Oracle, Secrets, Peg's Paper, etc. etc.), the needlework papers — these so numerous that a display of them alone will often fill an entire window — and in addition the long series of ‘Yank Mags’ (Fight Stories, Action Stories, Western Short Stories, etc.), which are imported shop-soiled from America and sold at twopence halfpenny or threepence. And the periodical proper shades off into the fourpenny novelette, the Aldine Boxing Novels, the Boys' Friend Library, the Schoolgirls' Own Library and many others.

Probably the contents of these shops is the best available indication of what the mass of the English people really feels and thinks. Certainly nothing half so revealing exists in documentary form. Best-seller novels, for instance, tell one a great deal, but the novel is aimed almost exclusively at people above the £4-a-week level. The movies are probably a very unsafe guide to popular taste, because the film industry is virtually a monopoly, which means that it is not obliged to study its public at all closely. The same applies to some extent to the daily papers, and most of all to the radio. But it does not apply to the weekly paper with a smallish circulation and specialized subject-matter. Papers like the Exchange and Mart, for instance, or Cage-birds, or the Oracle, or the Prediction, or the Matrimonial Times, only exist because there is a definite demand for them, and they reflect the minds of their readers as a great national daily with a circulation of millions cannot possibly do.

Here I am only dealing with a single series of papers, the boys' twopenny weeklies, often inaccurately described as ‘penny dreadfuls’. Falling strictly within this class there are at present ten papers, the Gem, Magnet, Modern Boy, Triumph and Champion, all owned by the Amalgamated Press, and the Wizard, Rover, Skipper, Hotspur and Adventure, all owned by D. C. Thomson & Co. What the circulations of these papers are, I do not know. The editors and proprietors refuse to name any figures, and in any case the circulation of a paper carrying serial stories is bound to fluctuate widely. But there is no question that the combined public of the ten papers is a very large one. They are on sale in every town in England, and nearly every boy who reads at all goes through a phase of reading one or more of them. The Gem and Magnet, which are much the oldest of these papers, are of rather different type from the rest, and they have evidently lost some of their popularity during the past few years. A good many boys now regard them as old fashioned and ‘slow’. Nevertheless I want to discuss them first, because they are more interesting psychologically than the others, and also because the mere survival of such papers into the nineteen-thirties is a rather startling phenomenom.

The Gem and Magnet are sister-papers (characters out of one paper frequently appear in the other), and were both started more than thirty years ago. At that time, together with Chums and the old B.O.P., they were the leading papers for boys, and they remained dominant till quite recently. Each of them carries every week a fifteen- or twenty-thousand-word school story, complete in itself, but usually more or less connected with the story of the week before. The Gem in addition to its school story carries one or more adventure serial. Otherwise the two papers are so much alike that they can be treated as one, though the Magnet has always been the better known of the two, probably because it possesses a really first-rate character in the fat boy. Billy Bunter.

The stories are stories of what purports to be public-school life, and the schools (Greyfriars in the Magnet and St Jim's in the Gem) are represented as ancient and fashionable foundations of the type of Eton or Winchester. All the leading characters are fourth-form boys aged fourteen or fifteen, older or younger boys only appearing in very minor parts. Like Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee, these boys continue week after week and year after year, never growing any older. Very occasionally a new boy arrives or a minor character drops out, but in at any rate the last twenty-five years the personnel has barely altered. All the principal characters in both papers — Bob Cherry, Tom Merry, Harry Wharton, Johnny Bull, Billy Bunter and the rest of them — were at Greyfriars or St Jim's long before the Great War, exactly the same age as at present, having much the same kind of adventures and talking almost exactly the same dialect. And not only the characters but the whole atmosphere of both Gem and Magnet has been preserved unchanged, partly by means of very elaborate stylization. The stories in the Magnet are signed ‘Frank Richards’ and those in the Gem, ‘Martin Clifford’, but a series lasting thirty years could hardly be the work of the same person every week.(1) Consequently they have to be written in a style that is easily imitated — an extraordinary, artificial, repetitive style, quite different from anything else now existing in English literature. A couple of extracts will do as illustrations. Here is one from the Magnet:




Shutting up was not really in Billy Bunter's line. He seldom shut up, though often requested to do so. On the present awful occasion the fat Owl of Greyfriars was less inclined than ever to shut up. And he did not shut up! He groaned, and groaned, and went on groaning.

Even groaning did not fully express Bunter's feelings. His feelings, in fact, were inexpressible.

There were six of them in the soup! Only one of the six uttered sounds of woe and lamentation. But that one, William George Buntcr, uttered enough for the whole party and a little over.

Harry Wharton & Go. stood in a wrathy and worried group. They were landed and stranded, diddled, dished and done! etc., etc., etc.

Here is one from the Gem:

‘Oh cwumbsl’

‘Oh gum!’



Arthur Augustus sat up dizzily. He grabbed his handkerchief and pressed it to his damaged nose. Tom Merry sat up, gasping for breath. They looked at one another.

‘Bai Jove! This is a go, deah boy!’ gurgled Arthur Augustus. ‘I have been thwown into quite a fluttah! Oogh! The wottahsl The wuffians! The feahful outsidahs! Wow!’ etc., etc., etc.

Both of these extracts are entirely typical: you would find something like them in almost every chapter of every number, to-day or twenty-five years ago. The first thing that anyone would notice is the extraordinary amount of tautology (the first of these two passages contains a hundred and twenty-five words and could be compressed into about thirty), seemingly designed to spin out the story, but actually playing its part in creating the atmosphere. For the same reason various facetious expressions are repeated over and over again; ‘wrathy’, for instance, is a great favourite, and so is ‘diddled, dished and done’. ‘Oooogh!’, ‘Grooo!’ and ‘Yaroo!’ (stylized cries of pain) recur constantly, and so does ‘Ha! ha! ha!’, always given a line to itself, so that sometimes a quarter of a column or there-abouts consists of ‘Ha! ha! ha!’ The slang (‘Go and cat coke!’, ‘What the thump!’, ‘You frabjous ass!’, etc. etc.) has never been altered, so that the boys are now using slang which is at least thirty years out of date. In addition, the various nicknames are rubbed in on every possible occasion. Every few lines we are reminded that Harry Wharton & Co. are ‘the Famous Five’, Bunter is always ‘the fat Owl’ or ‘the Owl of the Remove’, Vernon-Smith is always ‘the Bounder of Greyfriars’, Gussy (the Honourable Arthur Augustus D'Arcy) is always ‘the swell of St Jim's’, and so on and so forth. There is a constant, untiring effort to keep the atmosphere intact and to make sure that every new reader learns immediately who is who. The result has been to make Greyfriars and St Jim's into an extraordinary little world of their own, a world which cannot be taken seriously by anyone over fifteen, but which at any rate is not easily forgotten. By a debasement of the Dickens technique a series of stereotyped ‘characters’ has been built up, in several cases very successfully. Billy Bunter, for instance, must be one of the best-known figures in English fiction; for the mere number of people who know him he ranks with Sexton Blake, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes and a handful of characters in Dickens.

Needless to say, these stories are fantastically unlike life at a real public school. They run in cycles of rather differing types, but in general they are the clean-fun, knock-about type of story, with interest centring round horseplay, practical jokes, ragging roasters, fights, canings, football, cricket and food. A constantly recurring story is one in which a boy is accused of some misdeed committed by another and is too much of a sportsman to reveal the truth. The ‘good’ boys are ‘good’ in the clean-living Englishman tradition — they keep in hard training, wash behind their ears, never hit below the belt etc., etc., — and by way of contrast there is a series of ‘bad’ boys, Racke, Crooke, Loder and others, whose badness consists in betting, smoking cigarettes and frequenting public-houses. All these boys are constantly on the verge of expulsion, but as it would mean a change of personnel if any boy were actually expelled, no one is ever caught out in any really serious offence. Stealing, for instance, barely enters as a motif. Sex is completely taboo, especially in the form in which it actually arises at public schools. Occasionally girls enter into the stories, and very rarely there is something approaching a mild flirtation, but it is entirely in the spirit of clean fun. A boy and a girl enjoy going for bicycle rides together — that is all it ever amounts to. Kissing, for instance, would be regarded as ‘soppy’. Even the bad boys are presumed to be completely sexless. When the Gem and Magnet were started, it is probable that there was a deliberate intention to get away from the guilty sex-ridden atmosphere that pervaded so much of the earlier literature for boys. In the nineties the Boys' Own Paper, for instance, used to have its correspondence columns full of terrifying warnings against masturbation, and books like St Winifred's and Tom Brown's School-days were heavy with homosexual feeling, though no doubt the authors were not fully aware of it. In the Gem and Magnet sex simply does not exist as a problem. Religion is also taboo; in the whole thirty years' issue of the two papers the word ‘God’ probably does not occur, except in ‘God save the King’. On the other hand, there has always been a very strong ‘temperance’ strain. Drinking and, by association, smoking are regarded as rather disgraceful even in an adult (‘shady’ is the usual word), but at the same time as something irresistibly fascinating, a sort of substitute for sex. In their moral atmosphere the Gem and Magnet have a great deal in common with the Boy Scout movement, which started at about the same time.

All literature of this kind is partly plagiarism. Sexton Blake, for instance,
started off quite frankly as an imitation of Sherlock Holmes, and still resembles him fairly strongly;

he has hawk-like features, lives in Baker Street, smokes enormously and puts on a dressing-gown when he wants to think. The Gem and Magnet probably owe something to the old school-story writers who were flourishing when they began, Gunby Hadath, Desmond Coke and the rest, but they owe more to nineteenth-century models. In so far as Greyfriars and St Jim's are like real schools at all, they are much more like Tom Brown's Rugby than a modern public school. Neither school has an O.T.G., for instance, games are not compulsory, and the boys are even allowed to wear what clothes they like. But without doubt the main origin of these papers is Stalky & Co. This book has had an immense influence on boys' literature, and it is one of those books which have a sort of traditional reputation among people who have never even seen a copy of it. More than once in boys' weekly papers I have come across a reference to Stalky & Co. in which the word was spelt ‘Storky’. Even the name of the chief comic among the Greyfriars masters, Mr Prout, is taken from Stalky & Co., and so is much of the slang; ‘jape’, ‘merry’, ‘giddy’, ‘bizney’ (business), ‘frabjous’, ‘don't’ for ‘doesn't’ — all of them out of date even when Gem and Magnet started. There are also traces of earlier origins. The name ‘Greyfriars’ is probably taken from Thackeray, and Gosling, the school porter in the Magnet, talks in an imitation of Dickens's dialect.

With all this, the supposed ‘glamour’ of public-school life is played for all it is worth. There is all the usual para-phernalia — lock-up, roll-call, house matches, fagging, prefects, cosy teas round the study fire, etc. etc. — and constant reference to the ‘old school’, the ‘old grey stones’ (both schools were founded in the early sixteenth century), the ‘team spirit’ of the ‘Greyfriars men’. As for the snob-appeal, it is completely shameless. Each school has a titled boy or two whose titles are constantly thrust in the reader's face; other boys have the names of well-known aristocratic families, Talbot, Manners, Lowther. We are for ever being reminded that Gussy is the Honourable Arthur A. D'Arcy, son of Lord Eastwood, that Jack Blake is heir to ‘broad acres’, that Hurree Jamset Ram Singh (nicknamed Inky) is the Nabob of Bhanipur, that Vernon-Smith's father is a millionaire. Till recently the illustrations in both papers always depicted the boys in clothes imitated from those of Eton; in the last few years Greyfriars has changed over to blazers and flannel trousers, but St Jim's still sticks to the Eton jacket, and Gussy sticks to his top-hat. In the school magazine which appears every week as part of the Magnet, Harry Wharton writes an article discussing the pocket-money received by the ‘fellows in the Remove’, and reveals that some of them get as much as five pounds a week! This kind of thing is a perfectly deliberate incitement to wealth-fantasy. And here it is worth noticing a rather curious fact, and that is that the school story is a thing peculiar to England. So far as I know, there are extremely few school stories in foreign languages. The reason, obviously, is that in England education is mainly a matter of status. The most definite dividing line between the petite-bourgeoisie and the working class is that the former pay for their education, and within the bourgeoisie there is another unbridgeable gulf between the ‘public’ school and the ‘private’ school. It is quite clear that there are tens and scores of thousands of people to whom every detail of life at a ‘posh’ public school is wildly thrilling and romantic. They happen to be outside that mystic world of quad-rangles and house-colours, but they can yearn after it, day-dream about it, live mentally in it for hours at a stretch. The question is, Who arc these people? Who reads the Gem and Magnet?

Obviously one can never be quite certain about this kind of thing. All I can say from my own observation is this. Boys who are likely to go to public schools themselves generally read the Gem and Magnet, but they nearly always stop reading them when they are about twelve; they may continue for another year from force of habit, but by that time they have ceased to take them seriously. On the other hand, the boys at very cheap private schools, the schools that are designed for people who can't afford a public school but consider the Council schools ‘common’, continue reading the Gem and Magnet for several years longer. A few years ago I was a teacher at two of these schools myself. I found that not only did virtually all the boys read the Gem and Magnet, but that they were still taking them fairly seriously when they were fifteen or even sixteen. These boys were the sons of shopkeepers, office employees and small business and professional men, and obviously it is this class that the Gem and Magnet are aimed at. But they are certainly read by working-class boys as well. They are generally on sale in the poorest quarters of big towns, and I have known them to be read by boys whom one might expect to be completely immune from public-school ‘glamour’. I have seen a young coal miner, for instance, a lad who had already worked a year or two underground, eagerly reading the Gem. Recently I offered a batch of English papers to some British legionaries of the French Foreign Legion in North Africa; they picked out the Gem and Magnet first. Both papers are much read by girls,(2) and the Pen Pals department of the Gem shows that it is read in every corner of the British Empire, by Australians, Canadians, Palestine Jews, Malays, Arabs, Straits Chinese, etc., etc. The editors evidently expect their readers to be aged round about fourteen, and the advertisements (milk chocolate, postage stamps, water pistols, blushing cured, home conjuring tricks, itching powder, the Phine Phun Ring which runs a needle into your friend's hand, etc., etc.) indicate roughly the same age; there are also the Admiralty advertisements, however, which call for youths between seventeen and twenty-two. And there is no question that these papers are also read by adults. It is quite common for people to write to the editor and say that they have read every number of the Gem or Magnet for the past thirty years. Here, for instance, is a letter from a lady in Salisbury:

I can say of your splendid yams of Harry Wharton & Co. of Greyfriars, that they never fail to reach a high standard. Without doubt they are the finest stories of their type on the market to-day, which is saying a good deal. They seem to bring you face to face with Nature. I have taken the Magnet from the start, and have followed the adventures of Harry Wharton & Co. with rapt interest. I have no sons, but two daughters, and there's always a rush to be the first to read the grand old paper. My husband, too, was a staunch reader of the Magnet until he was suddenly taken away from us.

It is well worth getting hold of some copies of the Gem and Magnet, especially the Gem, simply to have a look at the correspondence columns. What is truly startling is the intense interest with which the pettiest details of life at Greyfriars and St Jim's are followed up. Here, for instance, are a few of the questions sent in by readers:

What age is Dick Roylance?’ ‘How old is St Jim's?’ ‘Can you give me a list of the Shell and their studies?’ ‘How much did D'Arcy's monocle cost?’ ‘How is it that fellows like Crooke are in the Shell and decent fellows like yourself are only in the Fourth?’ ‘What arc the Form captain's three chief duties?’ ‘Who is the chemistry master at St Jim's?’ (From a girl) ‘Where is St Jim's situated? Could you tell me how to get there, as I would love to sec the building? Are you boys just “phoneys”, as I think you are?’

It is clear that many of the boys and girls who write these letters are living a complete fantasy-life. Sometimes a boy will write, for instance, giving his age, height, weight, chest and bicep measurements and asking which member of the Shell or Fourth Form he most exactly resembles. The demand for a list of the studies on the Shell passage, with an exact account of who lives in each, is a very common one. The editors, of course, do everything in their power to keep up the illusion. In the Gem Jack Blake is supposed to write answers to correspondents, and in the Magnet a couple of pages is always given up to the school magazine (the Grey friars Herald, edited by Harry Wharton), and there is another page in which one or other character is written up each week. The stories run in cycles, two or three characters being kept in the foreground for several weeks at a time. First there will be a series of rollicking adventure stories, featuring the Famous Five and Billy Bunter; then a run of stories turning on mistaken identity, with Wibley (the make-up wizard) in the star part; then a run of more serious stories in which Vernon-Smith is trembling on the verge of expulsion. And here one comes upon the real secret of the Gem and Magnet and the probable reason why they continue to be read in spite of their obvious out-of-dateness.

It is that the characters are so carefully graded as to give almost every type of reader a character he can identify himself with. Most boys' papers aim at doing this, hence the boy-assistant (Sexton Blake's Tinker, Nelson Lee's Nipper, etc.) who usually accompanies the explorer, detective or what-not on his adventures. But in these cases there is only one boy, and usually it is much the same type of boy. hi the Gem and Magnet there is a model for very nearly everybody. There is the normal athletic, high-spirited boy (Tom Merry, Jack Blake, Frank Nugent), a slightly rowdier version of this type (Bob Cherry), a more aristocratic version (Talbot, Manners), a quieter, more serious version (Harry Wharton), and a stolid, ‘bulldog’ version (Johnny Bull). Then there is the reckless, dare-devil type of boy (Vernon-Smith), the definitely ‘clever’, studious boy (Mark Linley, Dick Penfold), and the eccentric boy who is not good at games but possesses some special talent (Skinner Wibley). And there is the scholarship-boy (Tom Redwing), an important figure in this class of story because he makes it possible for boys from very poor homes to project themselves into the public-school atmosphere. In addition there are Australian, Irish, Welsh, Manx, Yorkshire and Lancashire boys to play upon local patriotism. But the subtlety of characterization goes deeper than this. If one studies the correspondence columns one sees that there is probably no character in the Gem and Magnet whom some or other reader does not identify with, except the out-and-out comics, Coker, Billy Bunter, Fisher T. Fish (the money-grabbing American boy) and, of course, the masters. Bunter, though in his origin he probably owed something to the fat boy in Pickwick, is a real creation. His tight trousers against which boots and canes are constantly thudding, his astuteness in search of food, his postal order which never turns up, have made him famous wherever the Union Jack waves. But he is not a subject for day-dreams. On the other hand, another seeming figure of fun, Gussy (the Honourable Arthur A. D'Arcy, ‘the swell of St Jim's’), is evidently much admired. Like everything else in the Gem and Magnet, Gussy is at least thirty years out of date. He is the ‘knut’ of the early twentieth century or even the ‘masher’ of the nineties (‘Bai Jove, deah boy!’ and ‘Weally, I shall be obliged to give you a feahful thwashin!’), the monocled idiot who made good on the fields of Mons and Le Gateau. And his evident popularity goes to show how deep the snob-appeal of this type is. English people are extremely fond of the titled ass (cf. Lord Peter Wimscy) who always turns up trumps in the moment of emergency. Here is a letter from one of Gussy's girl admirers;

I think you're too hard on Gussy. I wonder he's still In existence, the way you treat him. He's my hero. Did you know I write lyrics? How's this — to the tune of ‘Goody Goody’?

Gonna get my gas-mask, join the A.R.P.
'Cos I'm wise to all those bombs you drop on me.
Gonna dig myself a trench
Inside the garden fence;
Gonna seal my windows up with tin
So the tear gas can't get in;
Gonna park my cannon right outside the kerb
With a note to Adolf Hitler: ‘Don't disturb!’
And if I never fall in Nazi hands
That's soon enough for me
Gonna get my gas-mask, join the A.R.P.

PS. — Do you get on well with girls?

I quote this in full because (dated April 1939) it is interesting as being probably the earliest mention of Hitler in the Gem. In the Gem there is also a heroic fat boy. Fatty Wynn, as a set-off against Bunter. Vernon-Smith, ‘the Bounder of the Remove’, a Byronic character, always on the verge of the sack, is another great favourite. And even some of the cads probably have their following. Loder, for instance, ‘the rotter of the Sixth’, is a cad, but he is also a highbrow and given to saying sarcastic things about football and the team spirit. The boys of the Remove only think him all the more of a cad for this, but a certain type of boy would probably identify with him. Even Racke, Grooke & Co. are probably admired by small boys who think it diabolically wicked to smoke cigarettes. (A frequent question in the correspondence column; ‘What brand of cigarettes does Racke smoke?’)

Naturally the politics of the Gem and Magnet are Conservative, but in a completely pre-1914 style, with no Fascist tinge. In reality their basic political assumptions are two: nothing ever changes, and foreigners are funny. In the Gem of 1939 Frenchmen are still Froggies and Italians are still Dagoes. Mossoo, the French master at Greyfriars, is the usual comic-paper Frog, with pointed beard, pegtop trousers, etc. Inky, the Indian boy, though a rajah, and therefore possessing snob-appeal, is also the comic babu of the Punch tradition. (“The rowfulness is not the proper caper, my esteemed Bob,” said Inky. “Let dogs delight in the barkfulness and bitefulness, but the soft answer is the cracked pitcher that goes longest to a bird in the bush, as the English proverb remarks.”) Fisher T. Fish is the old-style stage Yankee (“Waal, I guess”, etc.) dating from a peroid of Anglo-American jealousy. Wun Lung, the Chinese boy (he has rather faded out of late, no doubt because some of the Magnet's readers are Straits Chinese), is the nineteenth-century pantomime Chinaman, with saucer-shaped hat, pigtail and pidgin-English. The assumption all along is not only that foreigners are comics who are put there for us to laugh at, but that they can be classified in much the same way as insects. That is why in all boys' papers, not only the Gem and Magnet, a Chinese is invariably portrayed with a pigtail. It is the thing you recognize him by, like the Frenchman's beard or the Italian's barrel-organ. In papers of this kind it occasionally happens that when the setting of a story is in a foreign country some attempt is made to describe the natives as individual human beings, but as a rule it is assumed that foreigners of any one race are all alike and will conform more or less exactly to the following patterns:

Frenchman: Excitable. Wears beard, gesticulates wildly.

Spaniard, Mexican, etc.: Sinister, treacherous.

Arab, Afghan, etc.: Sinister, treacherous.

Chinese: Sinister, treacherous. Wears pigtail.

Italian: Excitable. Grinds barrel-organ or carries stiletto.

Swede, Dane, etc.: Kind-hearted, stupid.

Negro: Comic, very faithful.

The working classes only enter into the Gem and Magnet as comics or semi-villains (race-course touts, etc.). As for class-friction, trade unionism, strikes, slumps, unemployment, Fascism and civil war — not a mention. Somewhere or other in the thirty years' issue of the two papers you might perhaps find the word ‘Socialism’, but you would have to look a long time for it. If the Russian Revolution is anywhere referred to, it will be indirectly, in the word ‘Bolshy’ (meaning a person of violent disagreeable habits). Hitler and the Nazis are just beginning to make their appearance, in the sort of reference I quoted above. The war-crisis of September 1938 made just enough impression to produce a story in which Mr Vernon-Smith, the Bounder's millionaire father, cashed in on the general panic by buying up country houses in order to sell them to ‘crisis scuttlers’. But that is probably as near to noticing the European situation as the Gem and Magnet will come, until the war actually starts.(3) That does not mean that these papers are unpatriotic — quite the contrary! Throughout the Great War the Gem and Magnet were perhaps the most consistently and cheerfully patriotic papers in England. Almost every week the boys caught a spy or pushed a conchy into the army, and during the rationing period ‘EAT LESS BREAD’ was printed in large type on every page. But their patriotism has nothing whatever to do with power-politics or ‘ideological’ warfare. It is more akin to family loyalty, and actually it gives one a valuable clue to the attitude of ordinary people, especially the huge untouched block of the middle class and the better-off working class. These people are patriotic to the middle of their bones, but they do not feel that what happens in foreign countries is any of their business. When England is in danger they rally to its defence as a matter of course, but in between-times they are not interested. After all, England is always in the right and England always wins, so why worry? It is an attitude that has been shaken during the past twenty years, but not so deeply as is sometimes supposed. Failure to understand it is one of the reasons why Left Wing political parties are seldom able to produce an acceptable foreign policy.

The mental world of the Gem and Magnet, therefore, is something like this:

The year is 1910 — or 1940, but it is all the same. You are at Greyfriars, a rosy-cheeked boy of fourteen in posh tailor-made clothes, sitting down to tea in your study on the Remove passage after an exciting game of football which was won by an odd goal in the last half-minute. There is a cosy fire in the study, and outside the wind is whistling. The ivy clusters thickly round the old grey stones. The King is on his throne and the pound is worth a pound. Over in Europe the comic foreigners are jabbering and gesticulating, but the grim grey battleships of the British Fleet are steaming up the Channel and at the outposts of Empire the monocled Englishmen are holding the niggers at bay. Lord Mauleverer has just got another fiver and we are all settling down to a tremendous tea of sausages, sardines, crumpets, potted meat, jam and doughnuts. After tea we shall sit round the study fire having a good laugh at Billy Bunter and discussing the team for next week's match against Rook-wood. Everything is safe, solid and unquestionable. Everything will be the samefor ever and ever. That approximately is the atmosphere.

But now turn from the Gem and Magnet to the more up-to-date papers which have appeared since the Great War. The truly significant thing is that they have more points of resemblance to the Gem and Magnet than points of difference. But it is better to consider the differences first.

There are eight of these newer papers, the Modem Boy, Triumph, Champion, Wizard, Rover, Skipper, Hotspur and Adventure. All of these have appeared since the Great War, but except for the Modern Boy none of them is less than five years old. Two papers which ought also to be mentioned briefly here; though they are not strictly in the same class as the rest, are the Detective Weekly and the Thriller, both owned by the Amalgamated Press. The Detective Weekly has taken over Sexton Blake. Both of these papers admit a certain amount of sex-interest into their stories, and though certainly read by boys; they are not aimed at them exclusively. All the others are boys' papers pure and simple, and they are sufficiently alike to be considered together. There does not seem to be any notable difference between Thomson's publications and those of the Amalgamated Press.

As soon. as one looks at these papers one sees their technical superiority to the Gem and Magnet. To begin with, they have the great advantage of not being written entirely by one person. Instead of one long complete story, a number of the Wizard or Hotspur consists of half a dozen

or more serials, none of which goes on for ever. Consequently there is far more variety and far less padding, and none of the tiresome stylization and facetiousness of the Gem and Magnet. Look at these two extracts, for example:

Billy Bunter groaned.

A quarter of an hour had elapsed out of the two hours that Bunter was booked for extra French.

In a quarter of an hour there were only fifteen minutes! But every one of those minutes seemed inordinately long to Bunter. They seemed to crawl by like tired snails.

Looking at the clock in Classroom No. 10 the fat Owl could hardly believe that only fifteen minutes had passed. It seemed more like fifteen hours, if not fifteen days!

Other fellows were in extra French as well as Bunter. They did not matter. Bunter did! (The Magnet)

After a terrible climb, hacking out handholds in the smooth ice every step of the way up. Sergeant Lionheart Logan of the Mounties was now clinging like a human fly to the face of an icy cliff, as smooth and treacherous as a giant pane of glass.

An Arctic blizzard, in all its fury, was buffeting his body, driving the blinding snow into his face, seeking to tear his fingers loose from their handholds and dash him to death on the jagged boulders which lay at the foot of the cliff a hundred feet below.

Crouching among those boulders were eleven villainous trappers who had done their best to shoot down Lionheart and his companion, Constable Jim Rogers — until the blizzard had blotted the two Mounties out of sight from below. (The Wizard)

The second extract gets you some distance with the story, the first takes a hundred words to tell you that Bunter is in the detention class. Moreover, by not concentrating on school stories (in point of numbers the school story slightly predominates in all these papers, except the Thriller and Detective Weekly), the Wizard, Hotspur, etc., have far greater opportunities for sensationalism. Merely looking at the cover illustrations of the papers which I have on the table in front of me, here are some of the things I see. On one a cowboy is clinging by his toes to the wing of an aeroplane in mid-air and shooting down another aeroplane with his revolver. On another a Chinese is swimming for his life down a sewer with a swarm of ravenous-looking rats swimming after him. On another an engineer is lighting a stick of dynamite while a steel robot feels for him with its claws. On another a man in airman's costume is fighting barehanded against a rat somewhat larger than a donkey. On another a nearly naked man of terrific muscular development has just seized a lion by the tail and flung it thirty yards over the wall of an arena, with the words, ‘Take back your blooming lion!’ Clearly no school story can compete with this kind of thing. From time to time the school buildings may catch fire or the French master may turn out to be the head of an international anarchist gang, but in a general way the interest must centre round cricket, school rivalries, practical jokes, etc. There is not much room for bombs, death-rays, sub-machine guns, aeroplanes, mustangs, octopuses, grizzly bears or gangsters.

Examination of a large number of these papers shows that, putting aside school stories, the favourite subjects are Wild West, Frozen North, Foreign Legion, crime (always from the detective's angle), the Great War (Air Force or Secret Service, not the infantry), the Tarzan motif in varying forms, professional football, tropical exploration, historical romance (Robin Hood, Cavaliers and Round-heads, etc.) and scientific invention. The Wild West still leads, at any rate as a setting, though the Red Indian seems to be fading out. The one theme that is really new is the scientific one. Death-rays, Martians, invisible men, robots, helicopters and interplanetary rockets figure largely: here and there there are even far-off rumours of psychotherapy and ductless glands. Whereas the Gem and Magnet derive from Dickens and Kipling, the Wizard, Champion, Modem Boy, etc., owe a great deal to H. G. Wells, who, rather than Jules Verne, is the father of ‘Scientifiction’. Naturally it is the magical Martian aspect of science that is most exploited, but one or two papers include serious articles on scientific subjects, besides quantities of informative snippets. (Examples: ‘A Kauri tree in Queensland, Australia, is over 12,000 years old’; ‘Nearly 50,000 thunderstorms occur every day’; ‘Helium gas costs £1 per 1000 cubic feet’; ‘There are over 500 varieties of spiders in Great Britain’; ‘London firemen use 14,000,000 gallons of water annually’, etc., etc.) There is a marked advance in intellectual curiosity and, on the whole, in the demand made on the reader's attention. In practice the Gem and Magnet and the post-war papers are read by much the same public, but the mental age aimed at seems to have risen by a year or two years — an improvement probably corresponding to the improvement in elementary education since 1909.

The other thing that has emerged in the post-war boys’ papers, though not to anything like the extent one would expect, is bully-worship and the cult of violence.

If one compares the Gem and Magnet with a genuinely modern paper, the thing that immediately strikes one is the absence of the leader-principle. There is no central dominating character; instead there are fifteen or twenty characters, all more or less on an equality, with whom readers of different types can identify. In the more modem papers this is not usually the case. Instead of identifying with a schoolboy of more or less his own age, the reader of the Skipper, Hotspur, etc., is led to identify with a G-man, with a Foreign Legionary, with some variant of Tarzan, with an air ace, a master spy, an explorer, a pugilist — at any rate with some single all-powerful character who dominates everyone about him and whose usual method of solving any problem is a sock on the jaw. This character is intended as a superman, and as physical strength is the form of power that boys can best understand, he is usually a sort of human gorilla; in the Tarzan type of story he is sometimes actually a giant, eight or ten feet high. At the same time the scenes of violence in nearly all these stories are remarkably harmless and unconvincing. There is a great difference in tone between even the most bloodthirsty English paper and the threepenny Yank Mags, Fight Stories, Action Stories, etc. (not strictly boys’ papers, but largely read by boys). In the Yank Mags you get real blood-lust, really gory descriptions of the all-in, jump-on-his-testicles style fighting, written in a jargon that has been perfected by people who brood end-lessly on violence. A paper like Fight Stories, for instance, would have very little appeal except to sadists and masochists. You can see the comparative gentleness of the English civilization by the amateurish way in which prize-fighting is always described in the boys’ weeklies. There is no specialized vocabulary. Look at these four extracts, two English, two American;

When the gong sounded, both men were breathing heavily and each had great red marks on his chest. Bill's chin was bleeding, and Ben had a cut over his right eye.

Into their corners they sank, but when the gong clanged again they were up swiftly, and they went like tigers at each other. (Rover)

He walked in stolidly and smashed a clublike right to my face. Blood spattered and I went back on my heels, but surged in and ripped my right under the heart. Another right smashed full on Ben's already battered mouth, and, spitting out the fragments of a tooth, he crashed a flailing left to my body. (Fight Stories)

It was amazing to watch the Black Panther at work. His muscles rippled and slid under his dark skin. There was all the power and grace of a giant cat in his swift and terrible onslaught.

He volleyed blows with a bewildering speed for so huge a fellow. In a moment Ben was simply blocking with his gloves as well as he could. Ben was really a past-master of defence. He had many fine victories behind him. But the Negro's rights and lefts crashed through openings that hardly any other fighter could have found. (Wizard)

Haymakers which packed the bludgeoning weight of forest monarchs crashing down under the ax hurled into the bodies of the two heavies as they swapped punches. (Fight Stories)

Notice how much more knowledgeable the American extracts sound. They are written for devotees of the prize-ring, the others are not. Also, it ought to be emphasized that on its level the moral code of the English boys' papers is a decent one. Crime and dishonesty are never held up to admiration, there is none of the cynicism and corruption of the American gangster story. The huge sale of the Yank Mags in England shows that there is a demand for that kind of thing, but very few English writers seem able to produce it. When hatred of Hitler became a major emotion in America, it was interesting to see how promptly ‘anti-Fascism’ was adapted to pornographic purposes by the editors of the Yank Mags. One magazine which I have in front of me is given up to a long, complete story, ‘When Hell Game to America’, in which the agents of a ‘blood-maddened European dictator’ are trying to conquer the U.S.A. with death-rays and invisible aeroplanes. There is the frankest appeal to sadism, scenes in which the Nazis tie bombs to women's backs and fling them off heights to watch them blown to pieces in mid-air, others in which they tie naked girls together by their hair and prod them with knives to make them dance, etc., etc. The editor comments solemnly on all this, and uses it as a plea for tightening up restrictions against immigrants. On another page of the same paper: ‘LIVES OF THE HOTCHA CHORUS GIRLS. Reveals all the intimate secrets and fascinating pastimes of the famous Broadway Hotcha girls. NOTHING IS OMITTED. Price 10 c.’ ‘HOW TO LOVE. 10 c.’ ‘FRENCH PHOTO RING. 25c.’ ‘NAUGHTY NUDIES TRANSFERS. From the outside of the glass you see a beautiful girl, innocently dressed. Turn it around and look through the glass and oh! what a difference! Set of 3 transfers 25c.,’ etc., etc., etc. There is nothing at all like this in any English paper likely to be read by boys. But the process of Americanization is going on all the same. The American ideal, the ‘he-man’, the ‘tough guy’, the gorilla who puts everything right by socking everybody on the jaw, now figures in probably a majority of boys' papers. In one serial now running in the Skipper he is always portrayed ominously enough, swinging a rubber truncheon.

The development of the Wizard, Hotspur, etc., as against the earlier boys' papers, boils down to this: better technique, more scientific interest, more bloodshed, more leader-worship. But, after all, it is the lack of development that is the really striking thing.

To begin with, there is no political development whatever. The world of the Skipper and the Champion is still the pre-1914 world of the Magnet and the Gem. The Wild West story, for instance, with its cattle-rustlers, lynch-law and other paraphernalia belonging to the eighties, is a curiously archaic thing. It is worth noticing that in papers of this type it is always taken for granted that adventures only happen at the ends of the earth, in tropical forests, in Arctic wastes, in African deserts, on Western prairies, in Chinese opium dens — everywhere in fact, except the places where things really do happen. That is a belief dating from thirty or forty years ago, when the new continents were in process of being opened up. Nowadays, of course, if you really want adventure, the place to look for it is in Europe. But apart from the picturesque side of the Great War, contemporary history is carefully excluded. And except that Americans are now admired instead of being laughed at, foreigners are exactly the same figures of fun that they always were. If a Chinese character appears, he is still the sinister pigtailed opium-smuggler of Sax Rohmer; no indication that things have been happening in China since 1912 — no indication that a war is going on there, for instance. If a Spaniard appears, he is still a ‘dago’ or ‘greaser’ who rolls cigarettes and stabs people in the back; no indication that things have been happening in Spain. Hitler and the Nazis have not yet appeared, or are barely making their appearance. There will be plenty about them in a little while, but it will be from a strictly patriotic angle (Britain versus Germany), with the real meaning of the struggle kept out of sight as much as possible. As for the Russian Revolution, it is extremely difficult to find any reference to it in any of these papers. When Russia is mentioned at all it is usually in an information snippet (example: ‘There are 29,000 centenarians in the U.S.S.R.’), and any reference to the Revolution is indirect and twenty years out of date. In one story in the Rover, for instance, somebody has a tame bear, and as it is a Russian bear, it is nicknamed Trotsky — obviously an echo of the 1917-23 period and not of recent controversies. The clock has stopped at 1910. Britannia rules the waves, and no one has heard of slumps, booms, unemployment, dictatorships, purges or concentration camps.

And in social outlook there is hardly any advance. The snobbishness is somewhat less open than in the Gem and Magnet — that is the most one can possibly say. To begin with, the school story, always partly dependent on snob-appeal, is by no means eliminated. Every number of a boys' paper includes at least one school story, these stories slightly outnumbering the Wild Westerns. The very elaborate fantasy-life of the Gem and Magnet is not imitated and there is more emphasis on extraneous adventure, but the social atmosphere (old grey stones) is much the same. When a new school is introduced at the beginning of a story we are often told in just those words that ‘it was a very posh school’. From time to time a story appears which is ostensibly directed against snobbery. The scholarship-boy (cf. Tom Redwing in the Magnet) makes fairly frequent appearances, and what is essentially the same theme is sometimes presented in this form: there is great rivalry between two schools, one of which considers itself more ‘posh’ than the other, and there are fights, practical jokes, football matches, etc., always ending in the discomfiture of the snobs. If one glances very superficially at some of these stories it is possible to imagine that a democratic spirit has crept into the boys' weeklies, but when one looks more closely one sees that they merely reflect the bitter jealousies that exist within the white-collar class. Their real function is to allow the boy who goes to a cheap private school (not a Council school) to feel that his school is just as ‘posh’ in the sight of God as Winchester or Eton. The sentiment of school loyalty (‘We're better than the fellows down the road’), a thing almost unknown to the real working class, is still kept up. As these stories are written by many different hands, they do, of course, vary a good deal in tone. Some are reasonably free from snobbishness, in others money and pedigree are exploited even more shamelessly than in the Gem and Magnet. In one that I came across an actual majority of the boys mentioned were titled.

Where working-class characters appear, it is usually either as comics (jokes about tramps, convicts, etc.), or as prize-fighters, acrobats, cowboys, professional footballers and Foreign Legionaries — in other words, as adventurers. There is no facing of the facts about working-class life, or, indeed, about working life of any description. Very occasionally one may come across a realistic description of, say, work in a coal-mine, but in all probability it will only be there as the background of some lurid adventure. In any case the central character is not likely to be a coal-miner. Nearly all the time the boy who reads these papers — in nine cases out often a boy who is going to spend his life working in a shop, in a factory or in some subordinate job in an office — is led to identify with people in positions of command, above all with people who are never troubled by shortage of money. The Lord Peter Wimsey figure, the seeming idiot who drawls and wears a monocle but is always to the fore in moments of danger, turns up over and over again. (This character is a great favourite in Secret Service stories.) And, as usual, the heroic characters all have to talk B.B.C.; they may talk Scottish or Irish or American, but no one in a star part is ever permitted to drop an aitch. Here it is worth comparing the social atmosphere of the boys' weeklies with that of the women's weeklies, the Oracle, the Family Star, Peg's Paper, etc.

The women's papers are aimed at an older public and are read for the most part by girls who are working for a living. Consequently they are on the surface much more realistic. It is taken for granted, for example, that nearly everyone has to live in a big town and work at a more or less dull job. Sex, so far from being taboo, is the subject. The short, complete stories, the special feature of these papers, are generally of the ‘came the dawn’ type: the heroine narrowly escapes losing her ‘boy’ to a designing rival, or the ‘boy’ loses his job and has to postpone marriage, but presently gets a better job. The changeling-fantasy (a girl brought up in a poor home is ‘really’ the child of rich parents) is another favourite. Where sensationalism comes in, usually in the serials, it arises out of the more domestic type of crime, such as bigamy, forgery or sometimes murder; no Martians, death-rays or international anarchist gangs. These papers are at any rate aiming at credibility, and they have a link with real life in their correspondence columns, where genuine problems are being discussed. Ruby M. Ayres's column of advice in the Oracle, for instance, is extremely sensible and well written. And yet the world of the Oracle and Peg's Paper is a pure fantasy-world. It is the same fantasy all the time; pretending to be richer than you are. The chief impression that one carries away from almost every story in these papers is of a frightful, overwhelming ‘refinement’. Ostensibly the characters are working-class people, but their habits, the interiors of their houses, their clothes, their outlook and, above all, their speech arc entirely middle class. They are all living at several pounds a week above their income. And needless to say, that is just the impression that is intended. The idea is to give the bored factory-girl or worn-out mother of five a dream-life in which she pictures herself — not actually as a duchess (that convention has gone out) but as, say, the wife of a bank-manager. Not only is a five-to-six-pound-a-week standard of life set up as the ideal, but it is tacitly assumed that that is how working-class people really do live. The major facts arc simply not faced. It is admitted, for instance, that people sometimes lose their jobs; but then the dark clouds roll away and they get better jobs instead. No mention of un-employment as something permanent and inevitable, no mention of the dole, no mention of trade unionism. No suggestion anywhere that there can be anything wrong with the system as a system; there arc only individual misfortunes, which are generally due to somebody's wickedness and can in any case be put right in the last chapter. Always the dark clouds roll away, the kind employer raises Alfred's wages, and there are jobs for everybody except the drunks. It is still the world of the Wizard and the Gem, except that there are orange-blossoms instead of machine-guns.

The outlook inculcated by all these papers is that of a rather exceptionally stupid member of the Navy League in the year 1910. Yes, it may be said, but what does it matter? And in any case, what else do you expect?

Of course no one in his senses would want to turn the so-called penny dreadful into a realistic novel or a Socialist tract. An adventure story must of its nature be more or less remote from real life. But, as I have tried to make clear, the unreality of the Wizard and the Gem is not so artless as it looks. These papers exist because of a specialized demand, because boys at certain ages find it necessary to read about Martians, death-rays, grizzly bears and gangsters. They get what they are looking for, but they get it wrapped up in the illusions which their future employers think suitable for them. To what extent people draw their ideas from fiction is disputable. Personally I believe that most people are influenced far more than they would care to admit by novels, serial stories, films and so forth, and that from this point of view the worst books are often the most important, because they are usually the ones that are read earliest in life. It is probable that many people who would consider themselves extremely sophisticated and ‘advanced’ are actually carrying through life an imaginative background which they acquired in childhood from (for instance) Sapper and lan Hay. If that is so, the boys' twopenny weeklies are of the deepest importance. Here is the stuff that is read somewhere between the ages of twelve and eighteen by a very large proportion, perhaps an actual majority, of English boys, including many who will never read anything else except newspapers; and along with it they are absorbing a set of beliefs which would be regarded as hopelessly out of date in the Central Office of the Conservative Party. All the better because it is done indirectly, there is being pumped into them the conviction that the major problems of our time do not exist, that there is nothing wrong with laissez-faire capitalism, that foreigners are un-important comics and that the British Empire is a sort of charity-concern which will last for ever. Considering who owns these papers, it is difficult to believe that this is un-intentional. Of the twelve papers I have been discussing (i.e. twelve including the Thriller and Detective Weekly) seven are the property of the Amalgamated Press, which is one of the biggest press-combines in the world and controls more than a hundred different papers. The Gem and Magnet, therefore, are closely linked up with the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times. This in itself would be enough to rouse certain suspicions, even if it were not obvious that the stories in the boys' weeklies are politically vetted. So it appears that if you feel the need of a fantasy-life in which you travel to Mars and fight lions bare-handed (and what boy doesn't?), you can only have it by delivering yourself over, mentally, to people like Lord Camrose. For there is no competition. Throughout the whole of this run of papers the differences are negligible, and on this level no others exist. This raises the question, why is there no such thing as a left-wing boys' paper?

At first glance such an idea merely makes one slightly sick. It is so horribly easy to imagine what a left-wing boys' paper would be like, if it existed. I remember in 1920 or 1921 some optimistic person handing round Communist tracts among a crowd of public-school boys. The tract I received was of the question-and-answer kind:

Q,. ‘Can a Boy Communist be a Boy Scout, Comrade?’

A. ‘No, Comrade.’

Q,. ‘Why, Comrade?’

A. ‘Because, Comrade, a Boy Scout must salute the Union Jack, which is the symbol of tyranny and oppression.’ Etc., etc.

Now suppose that at this moment somebody started a left-wing paper deliberately aimed at boys of twelve or fourteen. I do not suggest that the whole of its contents would be exactly like the tract I have quoted above, but does anyone doubt that they would be something like it? Inevitably such a paper would either consist of dreary up-lift or it would be under Communist influence and given over to adulation of Soviet Russia; in either case no normal boy would ever look at it. Highbrow literature apart, the whole of the existing left-wing Press, in so far as it is at all vigorously ‘left’, is one long tract. The one Socialist paper in England which could live a week on its merits as a paper is the Daily Herald: and how much Socialism is there in the Daily Herald? At this moment, therefore, a paper with a ‘left’ slant and at the same time likely to have an appeal to ordinary boys in their teens is something almost beyond hoping for.

But it does not follow that it is impossible. There is no clear reason why every adventure story should necessarily be mixed up with snobbishness and gutter patriotism. For, after all, the stories in the Hotspur and the Modern Boy are not Conservative tracts; they are merely adventure stories with a Conservative bias. It is fairly easy to imagine the process being reversed. It is possible, for instance, to imagine a paper as thrilling and lively as the Hotspur, but with subject-matter and ‘ideology’ a little more up to date. It is even possible (though this raises other difficulties) to imagine a women's paper at the same literary level as the Oracle, dealing in approximately the same kind of story, but taking rather more account of the realities of working-class life. Such things have been done before, though not in England. In the last years of the Spanish monarchy there was a large output in Spain of left-wing novelettes, some of them evidently of anarchist origin. Unfortunately at the time when they were appearing I did not see their social significance, and I lost the collection of them that I had, but no doubt copies would still be procurable. In get-up and style of story they were very similar to the English fourpcnny novelette, except that their inspiration was ‘left’. If, for instance, a story described police pursuing anarchists through the mountains, it would be from the point of view of the anarchist and not of the police. An example nearer to hand is the Soviet film Chapaiev, which has been shown a number of times in London. Technically, by the standards of the time when it was made, Chapaiev is a first-rate film, but mentally, in spite of the unfamiliar Russian background, it is not so very remote from Hollywood. The one thing that lifts it out of the ordinary is the remarkable performance by the actor who takes the part of the White officer (the fat one) — a performance which looks very like an inspired piece of gagging. Otherwise the atmosphere is familiar. All the usual paraphernalia is there — heroic fight against odds, escape at the last moment, shots of galloping horses, love interest, comic relief. The film is in fact a fairly ordinary one, except that its tendency is ‘left’. In a Hollywood film of the Russian Civil War the Whites would probably be angels and the Reds demons. In the Russian version the Reds are angels and the Whites demons. That is also a lie, but, taking the long view, it is a less pernicious lie than the other.

Here several difficult problems present themselves. Their general nature is obvious enough, and I do not want to discuss them. I am merely pointing to the fact that, in England, popular imaginative literature is a field that left-wing thought has never begun to enter. All fiction from the novels in the mushroom libraries downwards is censored in the interests of the ruling class. And boys' fiction above all, the blood-and-thunder stuff which nearly every boy devours at some time or other, is sodden in the worst illusions of 1910. The fact is only unimportant if one believes that what is read in childhood leaves no impression behind. Lord Camrose and his colleagues evidently believe nothing of the kind, and, after all, Lord Camrose ought to know.



1) This is quite incorrect. These stories have been written throughout the whole period by 'Frank Richards' and 'Martin Clifford', who are one and the same person! See articles in Horizon, May 1940, and Summer Pie, summer 1944. [back]

2) There are several corresponding girls' papers. The Schoslgirl is companion-paper to the Magnet and has stories by 'Hilda Richards'. The characters are interchangeable to some extent. Bessie Bunter, Billy Buntcr's sister, figures in the Schoolgirl. [back]

3) This was written some months before the outbreak of war. Up to the end of September 1939 no mention of the war has appeared in either paper

marți, 17 august 2010

WORDS INFERNO - Politics and Language Or-Well

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the
English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we
cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is
decadent, and our language--so the argument runs--must inevitably share
in the general collapse.

It follows that any struggle against the abuse
of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to
electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the
half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an
instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have
political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence
of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause,
reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an
intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because
he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely
because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the
English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are
foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to
have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible.
Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which
spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take
the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more
clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political
regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and
is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to
this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have
said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of
the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially
bad--I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen--but because they
illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are
a little below the average, but are fairly representative samples. I
number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

(1) I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton
who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become,
out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien (sic) to
the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to

PROFESSOR HAROLD LASKI (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

(2) Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of
idioms which prescribes such egregious collocations of vocables as the
Basic put up with or tolerate or put at a loss or bewilder.


(3) On the one side we have the free personality; by definition it is not
neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as
they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval
keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern
would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is
natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the
social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these
self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the
very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of
mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

ESSAY ON PSYCHOLOGY in Politics (New York)

(4) All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic
fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror
of the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to
acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of
poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian
organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoisie to chauvinistic
fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the


(5) If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one
thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the
humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak
canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may lee sound and of
strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like
that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream--as gentle as any
sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be
traduced in the eyes, or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors
of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the
Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less
ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish,
inflated, inhibited, school-ma'am-ish arch braying of blameless bashful
mewing maidens.


Each of these passages has faults of its own, but quite apart from
avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is
staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either
has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something
else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything
or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most
marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind
of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete
melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech
that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for
the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together
like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house. I list below, with notes
and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of
prose-construction is habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors. A newly-invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a
visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically
"dead" (e.g., iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an
ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in
between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors
which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save
people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are:
Ring the changes on, take up the cudgels for, toe the line, ride
roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of,
an axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the
order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are
used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for
instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign
that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors
now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those
who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is
sometimes written tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the
anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst
of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never
the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying
would be aware of this, and would avoid perverting the original phrase.

Operators, or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out
appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with
extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic
phrases are: render inoperative, militate against, prove unacceptable,
make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for,
having the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt,
take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The
keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single
word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase,
made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purposes verb as
prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is
wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun
constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of
by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the
'-ize' and 'de-' formations, and banal statements are given an appearance of
profundity by means of the not 'un-' formation. Simple conjunctions and
prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having
regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on
the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved from anti-climax
by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left
out of account, a development to be expected in the near future,
deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion,
and so on and so forth.

Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as
noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basis, primary,
promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are
used to dress up simple statements and give an air of scientific
impartiality to biased judgments. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic,
historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable,
veritable, are used to dignify the sordid processes of international
politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an
archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot,
mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion.
Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex
machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung,
are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful
abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the
hundreds of foreign phrases now current in English. Bad writers, and
especially scientific, political and sociological writers, are nearly
always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than
Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict,
extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous and hundreds of others
constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon opposite numbers. The
jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty
bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.)
consists largely of words and phrases translated from Russian, German or
French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use a Latin or
Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the '-ize'
formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind
(de-regionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so
forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning.
The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

1. An interesting illustration of this is the way in which the English
flower names which were in use till very recently are being ousted by
Greek ones, snap-dragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming
myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of
fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning-away from the more
homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific.

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art
criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long
passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.2 Words like
romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality,
as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that
they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly
even expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The
outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another
writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its
peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference of
opinion If words like black and white were involved, instead of the
jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was
being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused.
The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies
"something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom,
patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different
meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a
word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the
attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally
felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it:
consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a
democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it
were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a
consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own
private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something
quite different. Statements like Marshal Petain was a true patriot, The
Soviet Press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed
to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other
words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly,
are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary bourgeois,

2. Example: "Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely
Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion,
continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a
cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . . Wrey Gardiner scores by
aiming at simple bullseyes with precision. Only they are not so simple,
and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet
of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly.)

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 favor to men of skill; but time and
chance happeneth

Here it is in modern English:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels 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. Exhibit (3), above, for
instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will
be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending
of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the
middle the concrete illustrations--race, battle, bread--dissolve into the
vague phrase "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to
be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing--no one
capable of using phrases like "objective consideration of contemporary
phenomena"--would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed
way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now
analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains 49
words but only 60 syllables, and all its words are those of everyday
life. The second contains 38 words of 90 syllables: 18 of its words are
from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six
vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be
called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase,
and in spite of its 90 syllables it gives only a shortened version of the
meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind
of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to
exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of
simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if
you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human
fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence
than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in
picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in
order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long
strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and
making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this
way of writing, is that it is easy. It is easier--even quicker, once you
have the habit--to say In my opinion it is a not unjustifiable assumption
that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only
don't have to hunt about for words; you also don't have to bother with
the rhythms of your sentences, since these phrases are generally so
arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a
hurry--when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making
a public speech--it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized
style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind
or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a
sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes
and idioms, you save much mental effort at the cost of leaving your
meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the
significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up
a visual image. When these images clash--as in The Fascist octopus has
sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot--it can
be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the
objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look
again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor
Laski (1) uses five negatives in 53 words. One of these is superfluous,
making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip
alien for akin, making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of
clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2)
plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write
prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up
with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it
means. (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply
meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading
the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows
more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases
chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning
have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have
a general emotional meaning--they dislike one thing and want to express
solidarity with another--but they are not interested in the detail of
what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he
writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying
to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it
clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will
probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said
anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all
this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and
letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your
sentences for you--even think your thoughts for you, to a certain
extent-and at need they will perform the important service of partially
concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the
special connection between politics and the debasement of language
becomes clear.

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 under-secretaries do, of
course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one
almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech. When
one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the
familiar phrases--bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny,
free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder--one often has a
curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind
of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the
light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs
which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether
fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some
distance towards turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises
are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would
be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making
is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be
almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the
responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not
indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

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
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

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.
Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending
Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing
off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably,
therefore, he will say something like this:

While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features
which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think,
agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is
an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors
which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply
justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.

The inflated style is itself a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words
falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outlines and covering
up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.
When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one
turns, as it were instinctively, to long words and exhausted idioms, like
a cuttlefish squirting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as
"keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics
itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.
When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to
find--this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to
verify--that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all
deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years as a result of

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A
bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation, even among people who
should and do know better. The debased language that I have been
discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not
unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good
purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a
continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look
back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again
and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this
morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in
Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open
it at random, and here is almost the first sentence that I see: "[The
Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical
transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way
as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same
time of laying the foundations of a cooperative and unified Europe." You
see, he "feels impelled" to write--feels, presumably, that he has
something new to say--and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering
the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary
pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the
foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if
one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase
anesthetizes a portion of one's brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable.
Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all,
that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we
cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and
constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes,
this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and
expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process
but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were
explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by
the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of fly-blown
metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would
interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh
the not 'un-' formation out of existence,3 to reduce the amount of Latin
and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and
strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness
unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English
language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by
saying what it does not imply.

3. One can cure oneself of the not 'un-' formation by memorizing this
sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not
ungreen field.

To begin with, it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of
obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting-up of a
"standard-English" which must never be departed from.....

On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which
has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and
syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning
clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is
called a "good prose style." On the other hand it is not concerned with
fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor
does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin
one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will
cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning
choose the word, and not the other way about. In prose, the worst thing
one can do with words is to surrender them. When you think of a concrete
object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing
you have been visualizing, you probably hunt about till you find the
exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you
are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a
conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in
and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your
meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible
and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures or sensations.
Afterwards one can choose--not simply accept--the phrases that will best
cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions
one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the
mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases,
needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can
often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs
rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following
rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor,

simile or other figure of speech which you are
used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you
can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything 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 these five
specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely
language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or
preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming
that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext
for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what
Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow
such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present
political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can
probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end.

If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of
orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you
make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.
Political language-and with variations this is true of all political
parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound
truthful and murder respectable. and to give an appearance of solidity to
pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least
change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers
loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase--some jackboot,
Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno or
other lump of verbal refuse--into the dustbin where it belongs.