Saturday, 23 June 2012

Ugly English on Wikipedia

I read George Orwell's Politics and the English Language a long time ago. I didn't really understand it back then. In fact I couldn't even figure out what he was trying to say in the essay. Then I came across Robert Fisk of The Independent. And it was through his articles syndicated in The Tribune and lectures and speeches on YouTube that I understood what Orwell really meant.

If Orwell found written English of his time "ugly", I am sure he would cry 'horrendous' on seeing the English used on Wikipedia.

Look at this sentence: 

Jew also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and an ethnoreligious group... (Wikipedia article on Jews)

and compare it with this one: 

Jew, Hebrew Yĕhūdhī, or Yehudi,  any person whose religion is Judaism. (Encyclopaedia Britannica on Jews)

Now, I have no idea what does it mean when one says, "XYZ people are a nation!" 

Anyway, this preposterous contortion of language isn't limited to an article or two. It's more or less prevalent, and especially visible in articles on politics.

What worries me more, however, is that this prejudice is carried over to other language Wikipedias through translation. This article on the Russian Revolution on the Chinese Wikipedia doesn't cite a single Chinese reference.
This is rather strange. I don't speak Chinese but my hunch is that they simply translated it from English.