Some people write bloated books and long essays with skilful use of hooks, e.g. Jared Diamond; some others speak in long-drawn sentences with torrents of words, e.g. Noam Chomsky. It reminds me of a tactic politicians use in public discourse to waste people's time. I came across this word before but I can't retrieve it from either memory or the internet.

  • 4
    Neither of them meant to waste anyone's time.
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 6:10
  • You already said it: hook 2. a thing designed to catch people's attention. "companies are looking for a sales hook" oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/hook?q=hook
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 6:14
  • 5
    the use of "hook" is totally and completely wrong here. it has absolutely no connection to what you're saying, regarding bloated or long-winded or off-topic argumentative technique.
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 7:15
  • 3
    If it's done in a self-important or pompous way you could use pontificate Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 10:14
  • 1
    user568458 Accusing someone of pontificating expresses the attitude of the accuser rather than describe the manner of the speaker. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 18:49

13 Answers 13


Consider bloviate

Talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way

It has an interesting derivation and pattern of usage, especially (but not exclusively) as applied to politicians.

  • 1
    @OwenBlacker Question asks for "waste people's time", not "stall for time". The difference is slight, but it's the difference between the two words.
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 18:48
  • 2
    @Izkata I think that distinction is paper-thin. To my mind, "It reminds me of a tactic politicians use to waste people's time. I came across this word before but I can't retrieve it from either memory or the internet." suggested that the OP was asking for the word about the political tactic in particular. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 18:49
  • 1
    @OwenBlacker It instead reminds me of how politicians talk on TV/in interviews, outside of Congress, all the time
    – Izkata
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 19:03
  • 1
    Good one! I couldn't think of it last night.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 1:02
  • 3
    @Owen I agree that I initially read it as the tactic. Which filibuster fits more closely. But, I think that the burying of people in unnecessary verbiage is to bloviate. This is an excellent answer. It's the opposite side of the same coin.
    – David M
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 13:42

Filibuster is the act of speaking non-stop in Congress or other parliamentary body. It is used as a tactic to hold the floor for various reasons: To allow time to gather constituents, to prevent discussion or vote on a bill before it will expire, to obstruct proceedings in general.

The word derives from Spanish filibustero which is in turn derived from Dutch vrijbuiter meaning pirate or privateer. The sense is that the filibusterer is stealing the time.

Otherwise, there is another notion that derives from a quote by W.C. Fields:

If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

  • 1
    Thanks, @David. Filibuster is very close, but the tactic in question is also used in blogs and news articles that employ hooks to keep people reading on and on. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 5:56
  • @GeorgeChen So (to) hook it is, sort of?
    – Kris
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 6:11
  • I vaguely remember it is something that probably has not make it to the dictionary yet. The tactic in question aims to distract rather than deceit. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 6:16
  • 1
    Another good example is output from the Federal Reserve in the US, where there is a sort of torrent of meaningless output to distract, mask the actual message, avoid giving straight facts. George, I'm pretty sure there is not really a single-word for that or a becoming-common phrase. ("hook" is completely unrelated and has no connection to what you're saying. a "hook" is the catchy part of a pop-song, or a clever device in a movie to "catch" your attention.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 7:20
  • 3
    Filibuster's direct purpose is to waste time and doesn't hide the fact that the content presented in a filibuster is usually irrelevant. Bloviate provided by bib is a better fit for the OP, with the speaker acting as if there is importance in their words.
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 22:36

This may not be exactly what you are thinking of, but there is a technique informally known as the "Gish Gallop", which specifically refers to rapidly presenting many arguments. Although each individual argument may be flawed, each one take time to refute (often longer than it took to state), and thus an opponent may simply not have enough time to deal with them all.

  • 1
    Gish Gallop is very close, but the tactic in question is used in monologues and books. I settle for bloviate for now. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 17:32

Any of these:

  • waffling
  • bullshitting
  • beating about the bush
  • avoiding the issue
  • bloviating
  • pontificating
  • posturing
  • snowing
  • fogging (if the intent is to distract from the underlying issue)
  • talking in circles
  • 2
    At least as a British English speaker, "bullshitting" to me means "lying" (with no indication about the verbosity of the lie), not burying people with words.
    – Chris Down
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 6:23
  • 2
    @Chris-Downs, no not necessarily. I'm a British English speaker (from Ireland). Bullshitting also carries general meanings of waffling, pontificating, going offtopic, as much as outright lying. 'He bullshitted about the economy for two hours without citing any specific statistics'
    – smci
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 6:33
  • 4
    In general I understand bullshitting to connote a lack of useful information, whether due to ignorance, avoidance or outright untruths, which covers anything from waffling to lying. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 14:18

I'm really not sure what you're asking - you seem to be referring to three distinct circumstances:

1) The deliberate use of prolixity in a parliamentary context. In the UK, this is known as 'talking out' a bill. It's not equivalent to the US practice of filibustering, which seeks to extend, rather than curtail discussion. Both, however, have the same intent: to avoid a vote being taken, and the bill dismissed or passed.

2) The deliberate use of language for persuasive purposes to 'hook' people's interest and perhaps also get them to commit to taking action of some kind. This essentially falls under the heading of Deliberative Rhetoric. Hooks will typically include the traditional rhetorical categories of ethos, pathos and logos - appeals to and from character, emotion and reason.

3) A formal, florid, free-flowing academic style. You referenced Noam Chomsky - I could personally listen to him talk for hours and not be bored or put off. You also referenced Jared Diamond - again, his writing seems clear and informative - I'm not sure what you're trying to describe in terms of style with reference to either of these speakers/writers. I certainly can't see the connection between their output and the circumstances described in 1 and 2.

  • Regarding point 3, if one has read Bertrand Russell, it is very hard for her or him to settle for less. It is definitely torture to hear Chomsky or read Diamond. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 18:44
  • @GeorgeChen - then it must be a question of taste - what I've read of Russell's has not impressed me much, what I've heard even less. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 19:42
  • Given the same amount of substance, it is not a matter of taste to decide who is excessively verbose. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 19:53
  • Assuming all three are tribunes for the oppressed, I have to gobble up a lot of stuff to get a sense of what Chomsky and Diamond wanted to say. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 20:26
  • It is true Russell is very obscure these days. Thanks to these bloviators. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 22:11

It's surprising this hasn't been mentioned, and I know an answer was already given years ago, but the most fitting word is circumlocution:

1 : the use of an unnecessarily large number of words to express an idea

2 : evasion in speech

Equivocation is another good candidate:

to use unclear language especially to deceive or mislead someone

Both words describe different aspects of the political technique you described in your question. Circumlocution emphasizes the evasive and verbose nature of the speech, whereas equivocation emphasizes the intentionally vague and deceptive nature of the speech.

  • Oh yes, the Circumlocution Office, my favourite aspect of Little Dorrit!
    – BoldBen
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 9:08
  • I haven't read that book, but it sounds like a good read from the synopsis on Wikipedia! Circumlocution Office -- that's hilarious! :) Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 12:32

While not explicitly used for politicians and perhaps more considered slang, the term that came to mind reading your post was "gish gallop." I hear it used more in debates when an opponent attempts to throw out so many bad analogies and so much faulty logic that there opponent cannot possibly deal with all of it in a critical way within a reasonable time frame.


There is an expression, not specific to politicians, to say the person suffers from verbal diarrhoea.

It is a common idiom in British English to describe someone who talks a lot without saying anything.

  • Almost exactly what that word means, but I'm pretty sure there is another word for it. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 17:34
  • 1
    There is a subtle difference. Bloviate is more deliberate. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 18:51
  • And verbal diarrhoea is like a mindless blab going out of control. Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 20:20

The tactic is referred to as "speaking over" someone. When someone else is speaking and you interrupt and you continue talking despite the fact that the other person has not yielded to you, you are speaking over them.


A common one used in Ireland is "Obstructionism"

The wiki definition describes it as "the practice of deliberately delaying or preventing a process or change, especially in politics".

Here it is most commonly associated with Joseph Biggar and the Irish nationalism movement from the late 19th Century, where Biggar's deliberate filibusters significantly delayed legislation, and forced the MPs in the House of Commons to negotiate with the nationalist politicians.

  • 1
    Obstructionism is to stand in people's way. Bloviate is not obtrusive at all. It uses hooks to distract people. Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 18:31

They normally avoid answering a sensitive question by quoting the "Party Line" a preconcieved bunch of jibberish which may. or may not address the issue in question.

  • 1
    "Quoting the Party Line" is neither "preconceived" nor "a bunch of jibberish", it's just the "official response". Whether it answers the question or not is not a factor, it's just the responder replying with what is accepted as an allowable, official response. In America, if you don't follow the "party line", you're a radical. In Soviet Russia, if you didn't follow the Party Line, you disappeared. :-D
    – Marc
    Commented Mar 28, 2014 at 19:58

logorrhea is also a fitting word.



  • Can you please explain why you think the words in the torrent that you have provided answer the question.
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 11:29
  • I am not sure if they answer the question exactly the way the questioner would have wanted. However, I am certain that each of the words listed above means over- elaboration or deliberate verbosity. Thanks.
    – user200193
    Commented Oct 10, 2016 at 11:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.