What's a good verb for when someone is expressing something in a cryptic or ambiguous fashion?


In re the quotation "...somebody has told Heruvimov that Rousseau was a kind of Radischev...", the first footnote to the essay "Hearts and Minds" says: "Scholars have seldom paired the two authors except to offer a cursory antithesis."

I would like to replace the word "says" in the above sentence with a verb that connotes "says, but so elliptically that honestly I'm not sure exactly what she means".

(Since this seems to have been confusing: The above quotation is a direct quotation. The footnote literally says the text in the quotation. But the quoted sentence, IMHO, is cryptic, gnomic, unclear, ambiguous. I'm looking for a way to indicate that IMHO the quoted sentence is cryptic, while still directly quoting it, and I'm looking specifically for a verb that I can use in this context. This is a [single-word-request].)

I'd like to avoid negative connotations; i.e. I'm looking for a verb form of cryptic, gnomic, delphic, ambiguous but not obfuscated, roundabout, obscure. Not that I have any of the latter lying around, either, though...

One might also say that in the song "Things are seldom what they seem" (HMS Pinafore, Act II), Buttercup and Captain Corcoran are verbing proverbs at each other; when Buttercup verbs "Skim milk masquerades as cream", the poor Captain cannot fathom her meaning.

  • For what it's worth, I don't think that footnote is very obscure. It means: "scholars tend to compare Rousseau and Radischev only when they need a quick contrast."
    – DyingIsFun
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 12:04
  • @Silenus interesting; I had interpreted it as meaning "scholars tend to disagree with the stated thesis, namely that Rousseau was a kind of Radischev" — i.e. not just that they're contrasting the two, but that they're specifically contradicting Dostoyevsky's thesis (well, Dostoyevsky's-fictional-somebody's thesis, anyway). I also can't tell whether she means "Scholars rarely pair the two, and when they do, it's to offer..." or whether she means "It's not uncommon for scholars to pair the two, but almost invariably when they do, it's to offer...". Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 21:05
  • @Silenus: In brief, I can't tell whether (according to her) it's well established in scholarly circles that Rousseau was totally not a kind of Radischev; or whether it's simply that nobody's bothered to consider the question except in a cursory and not-very-deep fashion. IMHO the footnote could be read either way. (But even if I'm misinterpreting the footnote, my single-word-request stands! ;)) Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 21:07
  • @Quuxplusone. I have deleted my answer as I had not realized your statement was a direct quote. In which case, how it the world can a direct quote ever be cryptic, elliptical, indirect, or ambiguous? Those are her exact words!
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 21:14
  • Further, looking back on your comment to Silenus, it is clear that what you need is to keep the word "says" in your example sentences, but then follow it with "By which the author seem to be <<your word here>> that Rousseau was a kind of Radischev." I highly recommended an edit to the question.
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


To allude is a form of mentioning that's neither direct nor negative.

Note that you might have a bit of a problem because you're writing about an essay. The author of an essay is trying to make a coherent and well-argued statement (that's pretty much the definition of an essay). So when you claim the essay's author is "expressing something in a cryptic or ambiguous fashion", then that directly forms a negative connotation.

  • Sorry, I somehow overlooked the dictionary link, my mistake.
    – Helmar
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 14:59
  • Sorry, "allude" doesn't fit the provided sentence. I need a replacement for "say cryptically", which is the kind of verb that can take a direct quotation. Alice said: "Hello." but never Alice alluded: "Hello." Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 20:52
  • 1
    FWIW, I strongly disagree with your statement that "expressing something in a cryptic or ambiguous fashion" always carries negative connotations. Gnomic may connote wisdom; cryptic may connote cleverness (as opposed to preciousness or pretentiousness); delphic may connote deep truth expressed diplomatically. Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 20:55

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