Definition of Circumlocution.
The word ‘circumlocution’ describes the use of an unnecessarily amount of words to get to the point, where just a a few would do. According to Merriam-Webster online dictionary the full definition of circumlocution is either:
- the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea
- evasion in speech
The term has its origins in the Middle English circumlocucyon, from Latin circumlocution-, circumlocutio, from circum- + locutio speech, from loqui to speak, and was first recorded in the 15th century.
Use of the term Circumlocution Office.
In Chapter 10 of the novel, Arthur Clennam visits the Circumlocution Office trying to find out about the case against a man called William Dorrit, who is in prison for debt. He is passed from official to official trying to find a satisfactory answer.
Little Dorrit was first serialised between 1855 and 1857. At the time, Charles Dickens was angry with the government’s mishandling of the Crimean War (1853 – 1856) and sought to satirise the incompetence of bureaucracy.
Over 150 years after Charles Dickens first used it, the term Circumlocution Office is still used to ridicule governmental bureaucracy where business is delayed by passing through the hands of different officials.