Even when we put language to such a vast spectrum of uses, there are not many who bother to look into its mechanism in a bid to find out what actually constitutes this marvelous tool. What are the cogs in this machine What is the breath of its being
Any research into the guts of language would lead us to a master called George Orwell. But there are a few more who also have taken up this prime project and they include Lynne Truss and David Lodge. The former is under strobe lights for her book on punctuation; the latter for his formidable oeuvre on the name and nature of the English language. It may not be possible to touch upon all the areas of concern that they did in such a modest endeavor. What can be done is to piece together from the masters a collage of cohesive ideas.
Orwell's landmark essay called 'The Politics and the English Language' (1946) begins with the significant observation that the slovenliness of language and the decadence of our thoughts are complementary. Since language is our tool for thought, the more mediocre it gets, the less lofty would our thought too be. Orwell diagnoses the condition as 'mental vice' characterized by 'staleness of imagery' and 'lack of precision'. The great master of style complains that "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 henhouse." Orwell lists four sources which could pollute good writing: dying metaphors, verbal false limbs, pretentious diction and meaningless words. Dying metaphors are those that are too old to be adequately communicative. Verbal false limbs apparently and uselessly prop up simple verbs. Pretentious diction includes foreign words, high sounding words and mere words. And meaningless words Meaningless words! Although Orwell's essay was written in 1946 when the notions of correctness and grammaticality were in vogue, the stress is more on communication that on norms. Perhaps, the essay was also a curtain raiser to good writing more than proper writing.
In 1984, David Lodge published a slim volume called Who Cares About English Usage In the second chapter of the book (You know you know ), Lodge makes an interesting observation while talking about the use, abuse and overuse of you know in spoken English. He too is bothered about imprecise usage and verbiage. But he says that there are occasions when language does not demand purity. "At home, in shopping, in the pub, in a canteen in innumerable everyday settings where there is no external pressure on us to speak according to a national standard, where no one is listening to us in order to judge us people use language just as a form of social cement, to chat rather than to converse"(13). David Lodge calibrates correctness with a different set of parameters. He says that the greatest sin is overuse. 'You know' is a useful tool when one needs to be subtle, pragmatic and persuasive. It, along with several expressions like 'mind you', 'you see' and 'the trouble