Consider the following related cases:

(1) Sometimes one encounters a lengthy academic article (with, say, 60 pages) with so many (possibly nested) structural parts and details that one cannot easily follow it, and see how the final/main conclusion is reached.

(2) Sometimes, this method is employed deliberately (edit: ... as a debating technique, much like Gish gallop, ...) to cover a flaw in the argument by exhausting the reader's attention. After all, there will be fewer people who bother to study, understand, and evaluate a lengthy, obscure argument compared with a short, elegant one.

Are there English words/phrases/idioms for the last cases?

Note: in contrast with this question, my question pertains academic contexts (not political ones), and the focus is on many structural parts (not just torrents of words).

Let me give an imaginary example: Suppose the article is dedicated to prove the Pythagorean theorem. It discusses such things as nature of lines, essence of triangles, axiomatic systems in general, ancient Pythagoreans, etc. at length, to distract the reader and make them forgot about the main topic, namely the Pythagorean theorem.

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    Synonyms for hot air, bunk, twaddle, drivel,... I doubt there are short terms unique to each (or any) of your three "sub-categories". Apr 4, 2022 at 11:47
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    To add another related word: rambling. However, there are some differences between their meaning and what I am looking for.
    – Kaveh
    Apr 4, 2022 at 12:03
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    It is unreasonable to expect a questioner to somehow guess the terms in which their question might have been framed in order to search for duplicates that might answer their question to some extent. Why not just answer the question? That is how knowledge progresses, not by reference to recondite hidden sources that are rarely completely relevant. Leave open.
    – Anton
    Apr 4, 2022 at 13:29
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    @EdwinAshworth I always regret this difference of viewpoint but guess it's an inevitable part of the productive tension of the site. The "3" questions are merely varied statements of the same notion. My main point is that, to know that duplicates exist, a questioner must formulate their question so as to pre-qualify their search for duplicates. Why should they? You from your extensive knowledge may know of duplicates but how is a relative novice to do it? If you ask me why Normal and Boltzmann distributions are related, I would not close you by saying you should know about Gamma functions!
    – Anton
    Apr 4, 2022 at 14:29

6 Answers 6



: too long; didn't read — used to say that something would require too much time to read

It was 70 years ago that poet W.H. Auden published "The Age of Anxiety," a six-part verse framing modern humankind's condition over the course of more than 100 pages, and now it seems we are too rattled to even sit down and read something that long (or as the Internet would say, tl;dr—for "too long; didn't read"). — Alex Williams

Merriam Webster


In some cases, particularly your third, the adjective obscurantist and its noun obscurantism may be helpful.

[Merriam Webster](

a style (as in literature or art) characterized by deliberate vagueness or abstruseness


If you describe something as obscurantist, you mean that it is deliberately vague and difficult to understand, so that it prevents people from finding out the truth about it.

You may also find meandering helpful:


moving slowly in no particular direction or with no clear purpose:
a long meandering speech

The general quality of what you describe is that it is prolix, or marked by the relevant noun, prolixity

Merriam Webster

prolix: 1 : unduly prolonged or drawn out : too long
2 : marked by or using an excess of words

All of which makes the argument abstruse

not known or understood by many people.

  • Thanks for your patience while I developed this answer. Time to stop, I think.
    – Anton
    Apr 4, 2022 at 12:32
  • No. OP wants '[an] idiom for a lengthy argument which obscures the main points' but puts in a condition that it must be scientific-argument- rather than political-debate-orientated (countering the duplicate claims with suggestions prolix, bloviate, snowing under, filibustering, // probably words such as 'labyrinthine', tortuous' {at adjective to describe the intentionally slow US legislative process}). Apr 9, 2022 at 16:09
  • @EdwinAshworth you overlook the PO’s mention of debating. You also overlook that these words apply more generally than in political discourse. I am well familiar with academic prolixity, scientific abstruseness, obscurantist ecobabble and meandering logical development.
    – Anton
    Apr 9, 2022 at 17:16
  • The answers above are also answers given at the cited duplicates. The condition 'it must be scientific-argument- rather than political-debate-orientated' is the only thing saving it from being a clear duplicate, and answers just answering merely the broader question are bloat. Apr 10, 2022 at 14:55

(1) Sometimes one encounters a lengthy article (with, say, 60 pages) with so many parts and details that one cannot easily follow it, or see how the final/main conclusion is reached.


Rambling (adjective and participle)

2. intransitive. To wander freely in speech or writing; (now more usually) to write or talk in an aimless, incoherent, or inconsequential fashion, without an ordered sequence of ideas. Also with on (adv.).

1710 J. Swift Jrnl. to Stella 21 Oct. (1948) I. 66 My pen is apt to ramble when I think who I am writing to.

(2) Sometimes, even the author themselves, is lost in such an argumentive maze.


labyrinthine, adj.

2. figurative. Intricate, complicated, convoluted; inextricable.

1840 T. De Quincey Style in Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. July 13/1 To follow the discussion through endless and labyrinthine sentences.

1865 Sat. Rev. 7 Jan. 16/1 [Browning] is apt to entangle the reader in labyrinthine thoughts.

(3)Sometimes, this method is employed deliberately to cover a flaw in the argument by exhausting the reader's attention. After all, there will be fewer people who bother to study, understand, and evaluate a lengthy, obscure argument compared with a short, elegant one.

A form of this is called “snowing under” (a reference to millions of random sheets of paper blowing past the reader)

2020 Making Social Welfare Policy in America: Three Case Studies Edward D. Berkowitz • Page 53 In one internal Social Security Administration (SSA) memo describing a meeting with the Bureau of the Budget, an SSA bureaucrat wrote his commissioner that Ball “snowed them under with lengthy answers to short questions.


bore (one) to death

To cause one to be extremely bored, to the point of distraction, frustration, or irritation.

Today's lecture bored me to death
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms

bore to death

Also, bore to tears or bore stiff or bore the pants off. Weary someone through extremely dull talk or uninteresting action. For example, Sam was bored stiff by the opera but didn't dare to admit it, or Carol bores the pants off me with her constant talk of remodeling, or His books bore me to death. All four expression convey the idea of such exasperation that one dies, weeps, stiffens with annoyance, or has one's trousers removed. The verb bore has been used in this sense only since about 1750, and its etymology is unknown. The amplifications were added between about 1850 and 1950.

See also:

bored to distraction
bored out of (one's) brains
bored out of (one's) skull
bored to tears distraction
bored silly
bore (one) stiff
bored stiff
American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms


For Case 3, consider bloviate (v) or blovation (n):

bloviate, v. To talk at length, esp. using inflated or empty rhetoric. [OED]

In US English, the word is most often used in a political context, referring to politicians who talk at great length to obscure the fact that they are not saying anything of substance; it also has a connotation of someone who "loves the sound of their own voice". In principle, one could also apply the word to cases 1 and 2; this would be an extended usage but would probably not be misunderstood.

As noted by @Lambie in the comments, these words mainly apply to speech and not to writing. If I said that an author was "bloviating on their blog", it would be understandable but not really idiomatic.

  • bloviate is great but only for speech. The OP is under the impression this exists in writing too....
    – Lambie
    Apr 4, 2022 at 13:29
  • @Lambie: Good point. Edited to reflect this. Apr 4, 2022 at 14:02

I like bloviate, above, but also considered: obfuscate - to render obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

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