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Periphrasis

 

Techniques > Use of language > Figures of speech > Periphrasis

Method | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

Periphrasis is circumlocution, talking around the subject rather than directly what perhaps might be said in the circumstances.

Example

It is not that James is welcome or otherwise, or that he is sometimes here or not. I do wonder, though, if he might be thinking what it's all about. (= I don't like James)

When I am with you, my toes tingle and my knees are weak. The world is a better place altogether and I find myself giving my fortune to beggars, and I am a beggar before you, craving a smile, a whim. (= I love you)

Discussion

There are many reasons why a person may not want to tell the truth. Perhaps the lover fears rejection or whistle-blower thinks they might get sacked. Often, we fear the reprisals of others for breaking social rules. We may also want to kindly spare someone the pain of the uncomfortable truth.

In literature and poetry, there can be much eloquence in talking around a subject. Rather than stating something simply, the writer paints with words, extracting a greater beauty and sympathy from metaphor and pattern. To write is to evoke emotions, and, whilst simple words enable understanding, they often do so coldly.

Periphrasis is also known as circumlocution, circumdiction, periphrase and ambage.

Classification: Hidden

See also

Deception principle, Euphemism

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