speak in circles / talk in circles

Discussion in 'English Only' started by qitastuff, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. qitastuff Member

    China, Chinese

    Can you please let me know what 'speak in circles' means? It's listed as one of some bad behaviors in a sentence:

    falling asleep while others speak, using unnecessarily loud voices, cutting others off, speaking in circles.

    Thanks a lot,
  2. Lulimonica Member

    Spanish - Spain
    my attempt to the meaning:
    Speak in circles could mean that you say a lot of things that don't make any sense, or you repeat again and again, without getting to any point.
    In Spanish we would say "dar rodeos", but I don't know an equivalent in any other language.
    Hope I'm right!
    Good luck!
  3. manon33 Senior Member

    English - England (Yorkshire)
    It is not idiomatic in BE.

    There is a phrase 'to go round in circles' which in a speech context would mean to talk a lot, but not achieve anything, or to come back to the point you started from, without being 'any further on'.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2009
  4. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    "Speaking in circles" is a phrase with which I'm not familiar either. Perhaps it means something like "beating around the bush" or equivocating, talking without reaching any point.

    Alternatively, it might refer to people who repeat their point multiple times, saying little or nothing new and just changing the words without providing new information or thoughts.

    Finally, perhaps one could associate this phrase with the word "circumlocutious":
    Perhaps the etymological similarities extend to similarities in meaning?
  5. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    The source (click) contains a number of other odd turns of phrase, including the use of "the police" to mean "the policeman" and "bicycler" (a non-word) to mean "cyclist"....
  6. qitastuff Member

    China, Chinese
    Thank you very much everyone!
  7. UUBiker Senior Member

    Arlington, Virignia
    United States, English
    I am familiar with the phrase "talking in circles," which is idiomatic.
  8. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Interesting, UUBiker!

    I'm familiar with manon's {post 3} "going round in circles" but not with "speaking in circles" or "talking in circles".
  9. UUBiker Senior Member

    Arlington, Virignia
    United States, English
    Google is the final arbiter --- "talk in circles" in quotations yields 28,000 hits, "speak in circles," 9,600 (very surprising to me, and perhaps to you), and "go around in circles" gets 67,000. But it turns out that "go around in circles means something much broader than just "talking:" to use a lot of time and effort trying to do something, without making any progress. The first two expressions are narrower than that.
  10. qitastuff Member

    China, Chinese
    Thanks a lot UUBiker!
  11. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    I recall writing once, "A merry-go-round of logic...".

    This is not very colloquial, but I liked the imagery.
  12. I am very familiar with the phrase "going round in circles", in the context of a debate or discusssion, meaning that the protagonists are repeating the same points and not arriving at any conclusions.

    I think I have also heard "talking in circles", meaning the same thing. I haven't heard of "speaking in circles" though. I think this is one of those instances where "speak" does not mean the same as "talk". If I heard "speaking in circles" I would imagine one individual, maybe addressing a group, coming back to the same point and never moving on. But "talking in circles" implies to me the circular discussion I've referred to above.
  13. boozer Senior Member

    "Where's the money?"
    "I bought sugar."
    "And where's the sugar?"
    "I sold it."
    "And where's the money?"
    "I bought sugar."
    and so on forever :)

    This is what I imagine when I hear "talk in circles", which phrase rings a distant bell in my head.
  14. qitastuff Member

    China, Chinese
    Thank you very much everyone!
  15. Waylink Senior Member

    English (British)
    Given the stated context which seems to be about the correct way to behave in social groups (maybe in a school class, or a business meeting, or at a birthday party):

    falling asleep while others speak, using unnecessarily loud voices, cutting others off, speaking in circles

    I would consider the possibility that when the author wrote "speaking in circles" s/he meant a group (or subgroup) of people standing facing each other in such a way that their body language excludes other people in the wider group (eg other people at the party) from joining in the conversation.

    But I agree that it is not standard English usage or a familiar colloquialism.
  16. Sköll Senior Member

    English, US
    I know this is a bit off topic, but now that you mention it: "bicycler" is a word in both OED and MWD---somebody must be using it. I could not find where a policeman was referred to as a police in the article.

    I’m also familiar with the phrase "talking in circles" and this is how I use it. In the article, the phrase "speak in circles" seems to be used with this meaning. << --- >>

    By the way, the biography of the author reads (translated from Chinese): About the author (Tim), from the United States, came to China in 2003, spent three years in Xinjiang and now lives in Beijing.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 21, 2010
  17. le pamplemousse d'or

    le pamplemousse d'or Member

    English - U.S.A
    Or better...
    "You remind me of the babe."
    "What babe?"
    "The babe with the power."
    "What power?"
    "The power of voodoo."
    "Who do?"
    "You do."
    "Do what?"
    "Remind me of the babe."

    Anyway, I've heard both "speaking in circles" and "talking in circles", which both mean to ramble illogically, speak without making a point, repetition in speaking, wasting everyone's time by speaking, speaking for a long period of time, etc. It's like "going in circles" but... with speech...

    Because going in circles (literally) would waste time and effort, and while it seems like your making progress, you're not. So... it's the verbal version of that. :D

    I hope that made sense and I hope that helped!

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