So my C post took its time to make its way around to the WWW. You could say it was circumlocution, or plain confusion on my part (if I am honest!) or well, taking my own sweet time to make a choice. That was my circumlocutory way of saying I got a little lazy today! While directness and clarity are hallmarks of good writing, circumlocution does have its advantages.
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Circumlocution or Circling Around to the Point Cleverly
What is Circumlocution?
Maybe the word itself gave you an idea of what it is; or that long-winded sentence of mine earlier. Anyways, here is the definition. Circumlocution is “talking in circles,” or a way of saying something in a less direct manner, ambiguously or vaguely. It is used when speakers or writers want to talk about something without making any direct reference to it; so they create ways to “talk around the subject.”
Socks are those things that you put on your feet to keep them warm or before you put on your shoes.
It comes from Latin – circum ‘around’ + locutio(n-) from loqui ‘speak’.
The Pro-Con List For Circumlocution
Circumlocution involves stating an idea or a view in an indirect manner that will usually leave a reader to guess the actual meaning. The writer uses this to remain ambiguous or to state things in a way that is not offensive, or to add artistic value.
While this device is very often seen as ‘not good’ considering it is the opposite of being direct and clear (which as I stated earlier are regarded as hallmarks of great writing), it definitely has power of its own.
So what gives it power? Here are some of the things:
- as a way to gain confidence for learners of a new language
- to have the freedom to be creative
- increases vocabularies in a different way! by having writers/speakers use other descriptors – words or phrases – to replace the word they cannot find or are avoiding
- helps continue conversations when you don’t know a specific word or don’t want to use it (maybe an offensive word, or simply You-know-who)
- and even allows a free flow of writing when you find yourself blocked by a certain word. Maybe the word could be as simple as a calendar, and you could put in something like rows and columns of dates.
Circumlocution in Poetry
In poetry, circumlocution lends a touch of grace, of artistry, of creativity and freedom, of imagination. It allows the poet to be descriptive. This device helps poets establish and maintain rhyme, rhythm, and meter.
It can help soften verses instead of using other harsher words; make the poem flow smoothly or break it up into fragments as desired. Circumlocution can make words sound sweeter or lend them power.
And, it can help the write give different ideas to readers; by taking readers on a circuitous route to the destination so to say, or by provide correlations between different things.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
While the bard could have used lovelier instead of ‘more lovely,’ it would have messed up with the meter, and using a different word for ‘more temperate’ would have messed up with the rhyme!
Coleridge employs it in Kubla Khan so effectively as well, where the reader’s attention is drawn to the surroundings he describes with so many words.
“So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”
Tips and Strategies
- An obvious one is to use synonyms, simpler or easier words for the one you are missing or avoiding
- Describe it.. for example “a structure in your room which you sleep on” could be used for bed.
- Or use online references like the reverse dictionary onelook
- Build up a wall of words for yourself. This can be fun and useful.
- Play games, like Taboo, or Pictionary…they are all examples of circumlocution already!
- Use macaronic language (a style of poetry using a mix of languages and colloquial dialects)
Charles Dickens used this word and its meaning, for a fictitious governmental department in his novel Little Dorrit. The name he gave it – The Circumlocution Office!
I decided it is high time I sort of review this book. I have talked about it so many times on my blog (here, here and elsewhere as well) but never really put my thoughts down in one place. So here is…..
Title: The Crossover
Author: Kwame Alexander
Length: 256 pages
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Novel in Verse (10 – 12 years, and up)
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (March 18th 2014)
Source: Personal copy
Description: Basketball and heartache share the court in this slam-dunk novel in verse. “With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander
This book made me fall in love with basketball way more than the boys in my life did; and they are both fans! While I am still not a sports-person, I know some terms, and have grown to enjoy it more than before.
Jokes aside, though I was serious about what I said above, this book is simply amazing. Kwame Alexander proves that words on a page have energy, and have the power to move, right across the lines and pages, and right at the reader. The storytelling takes readers on a rollercoaster of emotions as well. I recall smiling, crying, and raging as I turned the pages. Teenage angst, the heartbreak and joys, and so much more are all explored; and Alexander imparts important lessons so subtly and effectively connecting basketball and life.
I am not sure I have the words in me to convey the wowness effect this book had on me. I am sure I will end up being circumlocutory. So, if I am being clear and direct instead: this book is SIMPLY WOW!
Perfect for all who love basketball, novels in verse, and reading!
Get It Here
Amazon || Barnes and Noble || Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound
- Ten Reasons to Love Verse Novels and Novels I Love
- Games of Deception
- 13 Tips To Motivate Your Teen to Read
- 3 Great STEM Book Series for Young Readers
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, as always, I welcome your thoughts and suggestions, as well as recommendations. And of course, do include your suggestions for rhyme sets, and maybe even your compositions; for after all, this post is a call for submissions of a sort!
The AtoZ Challenges
Linking to both the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge and the BlogchatterA2Z-2021
You can find all my A2Z Challenge Posts here.
16 thoughts on “Circumlocution or Circling Around to the Point Cleverly (Finally?)”
I have a special interest in etymology and found this post interesting from that POV here from atoz https://poojapriyamvada.blogspot.com/2021/04/chutzpah-newnormal-a2z.html
Another great blog as usual Vidya! Such a big word, I wonder if means the same thing of artistry, creativity and freedom, and imagination in other forms besides poetry.
Such a creative series of yours, and this book has been on my TBR.
Another interesting read. So full of information!
When you mentioned circumlocution, I immediately thought of the game taboo. Loved that game, it was always so much fun! 🙂
I loved the tidbit about the circumlocution office in Dickens’ novel, I wonder what it did!
That was an interesting way of getting to the point ! Love the information that came gratis…..
Wow, thank you for all the info. You are truly a great blogger!
Great read! Love the information you shared. Thank you for sharing
I really enjoyed this post and it taught me something new.
I just love how creative you are with your writing. Circumlocution is a new word to me.
This was an interesting read!
Circumlocution Office. Yup, I knew a few of those.
Also, that book sounds very interesting! Thanks for the recommendation!
The Multicolored Diary
I have never heard this term before. What an interesting read! It is nice to learn something new.
Very interesting! Also, this sounds like a great book that my husband would love! Thanks for the recommendation!
This Southern-born gal has noticed that East Coasters in particular seem to excel in circumlocution.
I envy your creativity with your blog posts.