Thursday, October 9, 2008

Today's Prefix: circum-

circum-: A nice little prefix that means "around, about, surrounding." Notice its similarity to the word circle. This prefix gives us a number of polysyllabic gems, such as circumnavigate (to sail or fly around something), circumscribe (to draw a line around something, or, more figuratively, to set something's boundaries), circumfluent or circumfluous (to flow around, surround, or encompass something), circumambulate (to walk around something), and even circumcise (which at its base means to cut around something).

Then there's circumlocution. Locution has to do with speaking, and the style one uses when speaking. Circumlocution, then, is all about talking around something: a roundabout way of expressing something. We hear a lot of circumlocution from both sides in the presidential debates. I would wager that nearly every "answer" that a candidate gives is circumlocutory, ultimately expressing some idea that has little to do with the moderator's original question. A candidate is given a question about, say, foreign policy, and he (or she) begins to talk about his (or her) foreign policy ideas and experience, but through some amazing (and some not-so-amazing) circumlocution ends up making a statement about a completely different subject, say, offshore drilling.

Keep your ears open for circumlocution at the next debate. Politicians seem to have a knack for it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Just in Time for My Birthday?

It's a sign of how busy I've been recently that I completely missed the release of the newest novel by my favorite living author, Neal Stephenson. His newest book, Anathem, was released sometime last month. As far as I know, I've read everything he's written (including In the Beginning . . . Was the Command Line) except the two novels he co-wrote with J. Frederick George, Cobweb and Interface (although I own them both). I've been waiting ever since I finished System of the World, and even contemplating re-reading Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon, but somehow, his newest release slipped under my radar. Unfathomable! This would never have happened with Kurt Vonnegut!

My birthday is about a month away. With copy editing and a Halloween concert and work picking up and everything else, I know I won't find as much time to read as I'd like in the next month (and I ought to finish my current book before I start a new one), so this is probably the perfect birthday present for me.

Well, that and a wireless router. (As opposed to a cordless router. I might have a difficult time trying to wire my laptop into a Black & Decker power tool. But if I could, think of the havoc I could wreak!)