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Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

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Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.

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circumlocution

September 18th, 2015

Episode 323 of 713 episodes

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for September 18, 2015 is: circumlocution \ser-kum-loh-KYOO-shun\ noun 1 : the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea 2 : evasion in speech Examples: "It certainly could not be objected that he used any needless circumlocution, or failed to speak directly to the purpose." Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby, 1839 " she exudes the sort of hard-headed practicality that appeals to such votersmostly avoiding the jargon and circumlocutions that alienate them yet infect the speech of many politicians." The Economist, 30 May 2015 Did you know? In The King's English, grammarian H. W. Fowler advised, "Prefer the single word to the circumlocution." Alas, that good advice was not followed by the framers of circumlocution. They actually used two terms in forming that word for unnecessarily verbose prose or speech. But their choices were apt; circumlocution derives from the Latin circum-, meaning "around," and locutio, meaning "speech"so it literally means "roundabout speech." Since the early 16th century, English writers have used circumlocution with disdain, naming a thing to stop, or better yet, to avoid altogether. Charles Dickens even used it to satirize political runarounds when he created the fictional Circumlocution Office, a government department that delayed the dissemination of information and just about everything else.

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