Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

15 Nov 2001, 9:48 a.m.

George Orwell wrote in "Politics and the English Language" that incompatible…

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2001 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

George Orwell wrote in "Politics and the English Language" that

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 as 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 avoid perverting the original phrase.
I had already been considering this when I came across David Thomson's ode to Frances McDormand. His very first sentence not only ends with a needless preposition, but misuses "vale of tears" (also "vale of sorrows").
As men go through this veil of sorrows, there's a lot of things we have to adjust to.

"Veil of sorrows"? What the hell is that? Are you wearing a really sad piece of crepe over your face? Are you a Nathaniel Hawthorne character? So egregious.