Leading article: This `Orwellian future' is an allusion too far
Wednesday 02 June 1999
The latest person to fall into this trap is that self-declared protector of Queen's English, the Prince of Wales. Yesterday he conjured up the image of an "Orwellian future", in a newspaper article on genetically modified food. Sadly, the Prince failed to clarify precisely which of George Orwell's books he was referring to; was it 1984, with its nightmare world of authoritarian rulers, or Animal Farm, where the beasts have been so extensively genetically modified that they can talk? "Orwellian" in this context should have something to do with the actions of a totalitarian society, but genetically modified food is an instance where the state is less powerful than multinational companies. Instead of making the future sound frightening, this illiterate allusion momentarily clouds the issue.
The Prime Minister was right to criticise the term "Frankenstein food" when he discussed this subject. Dr Frankenstein is the scientist, not his deformed creation. "Frankenstein food" confusingly puts the monster in place of the man. The tendentious allusion is unhelpful.
Call us pedantic, but the language of public discourse matters. Coiners of literary allusions for scientific terms should take a leaf out of the book Dr Frankenstein's monster used to learn his English - Milton's Paradise Lost - and get their metaphors straight.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Double chins could be 'cured' without surgery or dieting using new injection
- 2 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 3 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 4 Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders
- 5 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Blink-182 split: Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful' say Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus
Emma Watson to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' rediscovered after 35 years
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia