World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Circumlocution

Article Id: WHEBN0000184451
Reproduction Date:

Title: Circumlocution  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Figure of speech, Anomic aphasia, Rhetoric, Robert Lekachman, Kenning
Collection: Figures of Speech, Poetry Articles Needing Expert Attention, Rhetoric
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Circumlocution

Circumlocution (also called circumduction, circumvolution, periphrasis,[1] or ambage[2]) is locution that circles around a specific idea with multiple words rather than directly evoking it with fewer and apter words. It is sometimes a necessary tool of communication (for example, in getting around lexical gaps to overcome untranslatability), but it is also often a flaw in communication (for example, when it is a figure of speech that is unnecessarily ambiguous and obscure).[3] Ambiguity means that information can have multiple meanings.[4] Roundabout speech refers to using many words (such as "a tool used for cutting things such as paper and hair") to describe something for which a concise (and commonly known) expression exists ("scissors").[5] The vast majority of definitions found in dictionaries are circumlocutory. Circumlocution is often used by aphasics and people learning a new language, where in the absence of a word (such as "abuelo" [grandfather]) the subject can simply be described ("el padre de su padre" [the father of one's father]). Euphemism, innuendo, and equivocation are different types of ambiguous and roundabout language (i.e. circumlocution).

Contents

  • Euphemism 1
  • Innuendo 2
  • Equivocation 3
  • In oral poetics 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Euphemism

Euphemistic language is the use of circumlocution to avoid saying words which are under a cultural taboo, such as words which are, or could be, considered offensive. Euphemism, however, is only sometimes circumlocutory. For example, "Holy mother of Jesus!" is a circumlocution of "Mary!", but "heck", while still euphemistic, is not a circumlocution of "hell".

Euphemistic circumlocution is also used to avoid saying "unlucky words"—words which are taboo for reasons connected with superstition: for example, calling the devil "Old Nick",[note 1] calling Macbeth "the Scottish Play" or saying "baker's dozen" instead of thirteen.

Innuendo

Innuendo refers to something suggested but not explicitly stated.[6]

Equivocation

Equivocation is the use of ambiguous language with the purpose of avoiding telling the truth or committing oneself.[7] For example, a person might not want to divulge his relationship status. Therefore, he talks about his significant other without making concessions as to their relationship. Instead of saying "She made dinner for me last night", an equivocational statement would be "Dinner was already made for me last night.".

Another example is the use of equivocation to deceive others without blatantly lying. For example, a person may ask directly, "Were you outside my window late last night?" The equivocal answer might pose an ambiguous question about the incident, sidelight it, or redirect interest toward some alternative interest. Examples include, "Oh, it was too cold to be outside. But I keep saying that the neighbor's cat needs to be restrained." "I heard something, too. Was it like a grunt?" Or "I was in bed late last night, what did you hear?"

In oral poetics

Poetic circumlocution is commonly used in oral poetics. It is, in fact, a definitive characteristic of many oral poetic traditions. Riddles, for example, are circumlocutory poetic games. Charms, spells and other incantations are another form of circumlocutory oral poetics. Circumlocution is often even a sacred injunction; the Judaic law prohibiting uttering the name of God is one of many examples of circumlocution taking the form of a sacred injunction.

African oral poetics constantly employs circumlocution, as does African American poetics. The blues, for example, whose lyrics often consist of an endlessly suggestive stream of imaginative metaphors, are defined by circumlocutory poetic logic, as Ben Sidran makes clear in his book Black Talk: "The direct statement is considered crude and unimaginative; the veiling of all contents in everchanging paraphrase is...the criterion of intelligence".

That African-American circumlocutory sensitivity and skillset was amplified and intensified by slavery and racial oppression in the US, as John Sobol makes clear in his book, Digitopia Blues - Race, Technology and the American Voice. The historic restrictions preventing slaves and their descendents from speaking their minds frankly, combined with their Afrocentric circumlocutory skills, gave rise to a wide range of circumlocutory idioms in America, from scat singing and jive talk to jazz itself, which Sobol argues is a circumlocutory language: "Jazz is the voice denied words."

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Speak of the devil, and he will appear" is the proverb.

References

  1. ^
  2. ^ "Ambage" in American Heritage, and Dictionary.com
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ New Oxford American Dictionary 2nd edition © 2005 by Oxford University Press, Inc.

External links

  • Circumlocution in figures of speech
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 


Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.