I just been given this response in an online, ahem, discussion:

"you are very very adept at turning circles, i imagine if you were a dog you would catch your tail with great skill. have you ever lost an argument."

Can anybody tell me what this guy means by "adept at turning circles"? Is it based upon a saying?

  • 1
    Outside of dogs chasing their tails, the concept of "turning circles" doesn't really have any meaning to the average Anglophone. We'd need the full context to be sure, but I more than suspect your example is from an inexperienced or non-native speaker somewhat clumsily referencing the idiomatic run rings around an opponent (figuratively, in a debating context). Which I think is primarily a British English usage, though Cassius Clay might have used it. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 18:15
  • In this context, "turning circles" is perhaps an alternative formulation for "going round and round in circles", what means that, when you are discussing something or trying to achieve something, you do not make any progress because you keep going back to the same subjects or the same problems.
    – Graffito
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 19:58
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    I think you are being none too gently accused of circular reasoning. What @FumbleFingers takes for a clumsy compliment, I take for a slam. Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 20:37
  • @Brian: As I said, if we had the full context (still not provided) it would be easier to decide that specific point. My first thought is that since the comment was aimed at OP, he can't be that good a communicator if he managed to write something theoretically "witty" that his interlocutor completely failed to understand. Extrapolating from the koan If a tree falls in the forest, but there's no-one there to hear it, does it still make a sound?, one might ask Is your best-ever "bon mot" still witty if it went over the heads of your audience? (And I don't think it's a "compliment"! :) Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 21:20
  • the full context is fairly lengthy and ranty, so im sparing you guys, honestly - if you are really interested have a look at Brain Cox's unofficial facebook group - i wasnt trying to be witty, i was repeating the same argument in several different ways because the other guy obviously wasnt getting it (or at least thats what i thought to begin with)... i suspect he was either trolling me or was just refusing to understand what i was saying for whatever reason...
    – Jimmery
    Commented Jan 24, 2016 at 21:54

1 Answer 1


It's probably a reference (or mild accusation) to Circular Reasoning.

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