Tuesday Terminology: Circumlocution

Circumlocution (literally “talking around”) is a figure of speech in which the writer uses a more complex name for a noun rather than the standard name. This is often for comedic reasons (though it can be used seriously as well). Some examples:

  • James used his trusty log-splitter to prepare firewood. [instead of axe]
  • Take this thing that cuts through paper and other assorted items to your sister. [instead of scissors]
  • The dawn-maker rose above the horizon. [instead of sun]

If you would like to find out more, Wikipedia has an exhaustive article on the various types of circumlocution (though they leave out kenning).

Have an example? Leave it in the comments.


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