Christopher Hitchens never used a short word when a long one would do.

The death of Christopher Hitchens is sad. It’s hard not to admire the brain, talent and sheer balls of the man – though too many media tributes have overlooked the ugly side of his bullish, contrarian views. Still, there have been a few who (like Hitchens on Mother Teresa) have stepped up to play devil’s advocate.

The paragraph below is doing the rounds on the web as an example of CH’s hawkishness at its most crass. But leave aside, if you can, the content. Look at the language, and ask yourself if it makes sense to mention Hitchens in the same breath as George Orwell, who wrote “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”

I so distrust the use of the word zeitgeist, with all its vague implications of Teutonic meta-theory. But on Veterans Day I had to work full time on myself in order to combat the feeling of an epochal shift, in which my own poor molecules were being realigned in some bizarre Hegelian synthesis. I should perhaps confess that on September 11 last, once I had experienced all the usual mammalian gamut of emotions, from rage to nausea, I also discovered that another sensation was contending for mastery. On examination, and to my own surprise and pleasure, it turned out be exhilaration. Here was the most frightful enemy–theocratic barbarism–in plain view. All my other foes, from the Christian Coalition to the Milosevic Left, were busy getting it wrong or giving it cover. Other and better people were gloomy at the prospect of confrontation. But I realized that if the battle went on until the last day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost. (Source: The Nation)

As Ben Jonson wrote of a very different kind of writer, “he never blotted a line… would he had blotted a thousand.”

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