August 8th, 2005


On Circumlocution

circumlocution \sir-kuhm-loh-KYOO-shuhn\, noun:
The use of many words to express an idea that might be expressed by few; indirect or roundabout language.

Dickens gave us the classic picture of official heartlessness: the government Circumlocution Office, burial ground of hope in "Little Dorrit."
--"'Balance of Hardships,'" [1]New York Times, September 28, 1999

In a delightful circumlocution, the Fed chairman said that "investors are probably revisiting expectations of domestic earnings growth".
--"US exuberance is proven 'irrational,'" Irish Times, October 31, 1997

Courtesies and circumlocutions are out of place, where the morals, health, lives of thousands are at stake.
--Charles Kingsley, Letters

Prefer the single word to the circumlocution.
--H.W. Fowler, [3]The King's English

Circumlocution comes from Latin circumlocutio,
circumlocution-, from circum, "around" + loquor, loqui, "to

Circumlocution office is a term of ridicule for a governmental office where business is delayed by passing through the hands of different officials. It comes from Dickens' Little Dorrit:

Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public departments in the art of perceiving--How not to do it.

Stupifyingly Somniferous and Dull as Dillweed

Filmed on location in England and using quotes from letters and other documents of Pilgrim leaders, this video is rich in detail and information. Its major drawback--and one that may affect its effectiveness with its intended student audience -- is that it's as dull as dillweed, primarily due to a somniferous narration.
    -- J. Carlson, "The Mayflower Pilgrims," Video Librarian, November 11, 1996

    Now, that's telling them with panache and vocabulary! I've never heard the phrase "dull as dillweed" before, but it is now my favorite in that category.