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mid-week Connect: 8/3/23 ~ Circumlocution in language and culture

Greetings and Happy Midweek!

And it’s August already, so let’s enjoy another Word Connect today. We do this once each month to remind ourselves that words do totally connect us cross-culturally and in so many other ways.* This word we’ll explore is “circumlocution”, in the context of language learning and then broader usage. This will fit right into the Applications component of our Global SKILLs PROACTive Framework, since applying the skills that circumlocution requires can help us communicate and interact more effectively.**

The use of circumlocution in language contexts that I want to explore with you is for example when you don’t know a particular word or how to describe something in just a few words, so you use a phrase or you might even tell a simple story to convey the meaning/message of that one word or concept or experience. I remember doing this many times when I was learning Jola in particular because I was immersed in community life there in the village of Sindian and so often, I wanted to tell my friends something or describe an experience to them but I simply didn’t know the needed word or words. In those situations, I just had to search through what I did know and do the best I could giving them the idea of what I wanted to say!

Like describing playing in the snow to people who lived in the tropics by saying it was as if the ground is covered with ice cubes (they could buy tiny bags of ice at the local boutique) and you have to wear your socks because otherwise your feet get too cold (they use socks in dry season when it does get chilly). Or describing a hurricane to people who do experience other types of bad storms by saying it was a combination of all the bad storms they knew plus other things like bands of rain and wind before and after the main storm, and calm right in the middle.

Using circumlocution effectively can be a challenge for language learners - but it can also be fun! And I’d say that’s true in contexts beyond language learning, because whenever we are in a cross cultural situation where we want to communicate something but we are at a loss for words or can’t come up with a good way to share an experience, if we think it through by using circumlocution - we might end up communicating in an even more effective way than if we already knew just what to say.

How about for you ~ what’s one example of circumlocution you’ve used which ended up being quite effective?

Share about that with a friend or note it here.

And check out the Global SKILLs LINKs below for more on circumlocution.

Thanks for being part of this Connect community.

Until next week,



~ this is dense, but shows one case of cultural circumlocution:

~ and like I say, it can be FUN:


The Word: Circumlocution (Oxford Dictionary) - the use of many words when fewer would do, especially in a deliberate attempt to be vague or evasive…

Well - that’s not quite the definition I am using here with cultural applications, but it’s an interesting one anyway!

* Related Connects - previous words we’ve had fun with (scroll down there to the date to find the post): 1/4/23 - tapestry; 2/1/23 - lizards; 3/8/23 - slang; 4/5/23 - mien; 6/7/23 laissez-passer; 7/6/23 - repatriation & rematriation

** Through my business Global SKILLs and several partner subsidiaries I offer unique cross-cultural consulting and training including:3 Dimensional Dynamics Model: 1st dimension = HOME ; 2nd dimension = HOST ; 3rd dimension = HARBOR)

PROACTive Learning Strategies:

PRO = PROfile, PROcess, PROgram

ACT = Application (which we explored this week), Collaboration and Transformation

~ contact me for more information on this model and these strategies and how you might use them in your current programming:

2023 ~ Celebrating 40+ years of working in

intercultural communications and global community building

“It takes a community to build a community”

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