Circumlocution

“Circumlocution (noun): Wordy and indirect language, sometimes as an evasion; roundabout verbosity; an instance of wordiness. Adjective: circumlocutional, circumlocutionary, circumlocutory; noun:circumlocutionist.

Henry James, in his later fiction, tried to make his characters and prose so refined in subtlety that his paragraphs are often monuments of circumlocution. Edith Wharton recalled James’s trying to ask an old man the directions to Kings Road at Windsor: “My good man, if you’ll be kind enough to come here please; a little nearer-so” and as the old man came up: “My friend, to put it to you in two words, this lady and I have just arrived here from Slough; that is to say, to be more strictly accurate, we have recently passed through Slough on our way here, having actually motored to Windsor from Rye, which was our point of departure; and the darkness having overtaken us, we should be much obliged if you would tell us in relation, say, to the High Street, which, as you of course know, lead to the Castle after leaving on the left hand the turn down the railroad station.” Robert Morsheberger, Commonsense Grammar and Style'”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

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