Printable Version
Pronunciation: sêr-kêm-ben-dê-bês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Adverb

Meaning: Do not confuse this word with the articulated buses that seem to bend themselves around corners. Today's word means "circumlocution, crookedness, a roundabout way of traveling, speaking, or writing; not direct". It may also mean "circuitously" when used as an adverb.

Notes: Oh-oh!This word is another interesting nonsense word among such illustrious American contenders as stick-to-itiveness, gobbledygook, and the ever-popular hootenanny. Europeans have always preferred straight talk and have created several words to express circuity in speech, including synonyms of today's word like circumquaque and the almost fantastic circumbilivagination. If they seem to be Latin, they probably originated in Oxford or Cambridge, not on the American prairie.

In Play: If you are going to talk, walk, or drive circuitously, why not describe that circuity with a circuitous word like today's: "When I told her that I wrote a term paper on Iran twenty years ago in college, Pat Agonia, via some inexplicable circumbendibus, concluded that I support the war there now." Today's Good Word may also be used as an adverb expressing the manner of movement: "The story of Phil sticking himself with a fishhook came to me so circumbendibus, that I heard he had been swallowed by a shark."

Word History: As already noted, today's Good Word is a fanciful nonce word that refuses to go away. It was made up from the Latin preposition circum "around, about" + English bend + ibus, the ablative plural suffix in Latin. Looks authentic, doesn't it? Circum goes back to the root ker- that also underlies the Latin noun circus "circle, ring", which we borrowed for a show with three rings. It came to Germanic languages as hr-, which picked up the common suffix -in, and ended up in English as, you guessed it, ring. English also borrowed Old Norse krokr, based on the same root, ker-, without the E, and converted it to crook, which originally referred to a rounded hook often used by shepherds.

Dr. Goodword,

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