This is a question I have for those trained in the classics and have read the novel, 1984.

One of the minor characters in the novel is a man called Syme, who works on Newspeak. He waxes eloquently about the beauty of destroying words and how that will fundamentally change the way people will think. Winston Smith calls him a philologist.

At the time the novel was written in the years following World War II, probably the most eminent Roman historian and philologist was Ronald Syme, who eventually became the Camden Professor of Ancient History at Brasenose College at Oxford.

I was wondering if anyone knows whether Eric Blair (George Orwell was Blair's pen name) knew Syme and, if so, whether they think Blair was satirizing the Oxford don.

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    Timothy Barnes claims so (without anything to back up his assertion, I might add). He notes that Symes isn't mentioned in Orwell's own bibliography
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 23:12
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    I can't see any visible connection between the two. They went to different school, served overseas in different countries, worked in different places on their return and seem to share no common factors in terms of shared literature or bibliographical references. It's certainly possible that they knew each other (both have connections to Oxfordshire, for example) but I can't see anything that would attach one to the other
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 23:29
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    I will say that Tim Barnes rarely writes anything that he can't back up. But that said, I tend to agree. Syme was a Kiwi and was stationed in Turkey. Orwell/Blair spent most of his time overseas in colonial India. It probably is a coincidence. Blair may have seen the name and just used it as a very small "in" joke. But it is certainly one heck of a coincidence. Commented Sep 26, 2018 at 23:52


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