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An Exploration of the Connection Between Language and Discrimination

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Language is both something familiar and unique to everyone on Earth. People communicate in various ways, whether through spoken languages such as English, Braille, or Sign Language. Unfortunately, as with anything with many options, humans will often try to put one on a pedestal and consider it the epitome of perfection while scorning the others. This is the core of Gloria Anzaldúa's "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" and George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." Anzaldúa's text explores how speaking a second language can lead to discrimination and even loss of identity. On the other hand, Orwell's text delves into how academia and politicians had muddled and essentially polluted the English Language making it more inaccessible to those without resources. However, Gloria Anzaldúa's "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" uses diction, code-switching, and metaphors better than George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" to show how language can be used against people.

Diction is the foundation of both papers. But, from here, we can see Anzaldúa weaving her words and using diction more skillfully. She chooses certain words so readers can see the comparative imagery better. The true meaning of her words is written between the lines. Anzaldúa makes us imagine. One quote that stands out and allows us to see this is, "And I think, how do you tame a wild tongue, train it to be quiet, how do you bridle and saddle it? (34)" Here, on the surface, the reader might first think she is talking about her physical tongue given the context that she was at the dentist. Then we delve more profound, and it becomes clear that she is comparing her tongue to a wild horse. But that is not all; we can infer that Anzaldúa is not talking about her physical tongue; instead, it is the language she speaks. In this case, she wonders how to use Spanish without it slipping into her conversations in English. Saying anything other than English made her stand out, and not in a good way. She was expected to be like everyone else, including speaking like them. If not, she would have lost opportunities that were already rare by being a woman of color. On the other hand, Orwell, a white man, chose words just as "pretentious" as the ones he critiqued. A glaring example of this can be found in only his third sentence, which goes, "It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism… (3)". Orwell advocates that you should make the language more precise. Here he is doing the opposite. Sentimental archaism can easily be made more evident if you say it merely loves the known in this context—his choice of diction gatekeeps the very language he is trying to make more accessible. 

The following rhetorical strategy that stood out in both texts is code-switching. Anzaldúa's use of this strategy is seamless as she switches from English to different versions of Spanish and related dialects. Her use of code-switching helps her reclaim her suppressed language and identity. This realization of hers is expressed in the quote, "Until I can take pride in my language, I cannot take pride in myself" (39). Anzaldúa's use of code-switching signals to her audience that she is breaking free of the mental chains placed on her since her childhood. Moreover, she asserts that she will not allow anyone else to wield her language and, essentially, her identity as a weapon against her. Anzaldúa's code-switching is more potent as the audience can feel her strong emotions, see her laugh in triumph as she casually switches between English and Spanish, and enjoy what was denied from her. Code-switching in Orwell's work does not have the same effect on the audience. It does not carry the same grander purpose, one can say. Instead, code-switching is used to mock. Throughout the essay, Orwell attempts to dazzle his audience with his supposed flawless command of what he considers perfect and terrible English. However, his arguments fall flat in some areas as he utilizes and even breaks the rules he penned for proper English. This can be seen in the quote, "If one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or another lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs (8-9)”. In this quote, he breaks the rules 3, 5, and 6 (8). Rule three states to cut a word out if you can, and every word after the em dash can be cut out (8). Rule 5 is never to use jargon words if you can use an everyday ones (8). This rule-breaking is all fine as he says you can break any of the rules not to sound barbarous, which is, in summary, rule 6 (8). However, his closing sentence does sound barbarous as he attempts to code-switch into what he considers terrible modern English phrases to punctuate his point. Orwell's attempt to show how the academics or politicians in power butcher and gatekeep English falls flat as he does the same. His attempts at simplifying English do the opposite and confuse the topic further. 

Metaphors are a critical rhetorical strategy used to show the imagery of discrimination in both authors' works. Anzaldúa once again surpasses Orwell in using metaphors to show this. This is made clear in a quote from the very beginning of Anzaldúa's piece, "'We're going to have to do something about your tongue" I can hear the anger rising in his voice" (33). Anzaldúa utilizes metaphors throughout her work, even in the piece's title, but its most effective use comes from this quote. Here, the audience gets a clue that Anzaldúa is speaking not just her physical tongue but also her language. We also glimpse who is trying to control her; a man in a place of power. This quote serves to introduce and underscore the discrimination Anzaldúa experiences. Furthermore, the audience knows that anger is a common reaction to hearing her speak Spanish. Anzaldúa uses metaphors throughout the piece to allow her audience to make these conclusions themselves. And by coming to these conclusions by themselves, the audience experiences the same horror that Anzaldúa had to face time and time again. This display of metaphors shows its strength and why metaphors are essential. Orwell does agree that metaphors are strong but, over time, become "an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness (4)". This is true as metaphors are more than the image they invoke. They have emotions behind them, also. However, Orwell's metaphors do not carry the same strength as Anzaldúa's. Anzaldúa crafts a narrative of comparing her language to a wild horse throughout the piece. Orwell uses and throws out metaphors, such as comparing politicians to dummies (7). While this metaphor shows how politicians can use language to manipulate people, it does not have the same strength as it feels more like a throwaway line than anything else. 

In conclusion, one can argue that Anzaldúa's diction is just as confusing as Orwell's, but her work serves to inform rather than arrogantly reprimand and 'mansplain' why someone is using language wrong. Her work is powerful and uncompromising because of all the compromises she has endured. It speaks to the soul and heart of anyone who has experienced even a little bit of discrimination as she has taken. Anzaldúa's use of diction, code-switching, and metaphors skillfully shows how her language was used against her and how she reclaimed it. For all these reasons, "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" better used rhetorical strategies to show how language can be used against others.

Edited by Whitney Edna Ibe

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