linguist • writer • editor • lecturer • broadcaster
[Thursday 03 January, 2013]
Toni moved one foot in front of the other foot and went in the general direction of the building where the buses begin their journeys.
Or, putting it another way, ‘Toni walked towards the bus station’. You can see what’s happened. The first version has 25 words. The second has 6. When someone says or writes something in a roundabout way, using more words than they need in order to express their meaning, it’s called circumlocution - or periphrasis [puh-ri-fra-sis]. People don’t usually like circumlocutions. ‘Get to the point’, they say. And generally, in English, it’s wise not to use two words if one will do. Of course, some people make a habit of using circumlocutions. Listen to the next time a politician is asked a straight question, and see how may circumlocutions you can count in the answer
REPORTER: Did you have an argument with the Prime Minister?
POLITICIAN: I think it’s probably true to say that we had an interesting and constructive exchange of views.
In other words: Yes!
Cartoon 16
Related notions: cliche, diction, jargon

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