Going Around the Houses: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
December 20, 2023

The saying "going around the houses" generally means to approach something in a long-winded or indirect manner. It suggests taking a lot more steps or spending a lot more time than needed to get something done. So, instead of getting straight to the point, you wander here and there, sort of like taking the scenic route when a more direct path is available.

In short:

  • "Going around the houses" means taking an unnecessarily long or complicated route to do something.
  • It refers to avoiding the straightforward way of handling a situation.

What Does "Going Around the Houses" Mean?

When someone says they're "going around the houses," they mean they're taking a long time to get to their point or to accomplish a task. It can involve doing many unnecessary steps or giving a lot of unneeded details. Essentially, it means you're not being as direct or efficient as you could be.

Let's explore its core meanings and usage:

  • "Going around the houses" indicates a roundabout way to tackle something.
  • You use it when you notice yourself or others avoiding the simple, direct approach.
  • The phrase hints at wasting time or effort due to detours, whether in conversation or action.
  • It often comes up when discussing long meetings, wordy emails, or convoluted plans.
  • Similar sayings include "beating around the bush," "taking the long way around," and "making a mountain out of a molehill."

Where Does "Going Around the Houses" Come From?

The phrase “going around the houses” is a British idiom that means to approach a subject indirectly or to take a long time to get to the point. The phrase is believed to have originated from the practice of door-to-door salesmen or collectors who went around the houses in a neighborhood.

10 Examples of "Going Around the Houses" in Sentences

To help you better understand when to use this phrase, let's look at some examples from different situations:

  • At the outset, he was going around the houses with his explanation.
  • Stop going around the houses and just tell me the news!
  • Despite the lashback, she insisted on going around the houses with her argument.
  • The politician was going around the houses in his speech, avoiding the real issues.
  • Instead of just fixing the leak, he was going around the houses testing every single pipe.
  • I’ve been there, going around the houses, trying to find a solution that was right in front of me.
  • We could have finished this project earlier if we didn't keep going around the houses.
  • He was going around the houses explaining the rules, making a simple game seem complicated.
  • The recipe would have been easier to follow if it didn’t keep going around the houses with unnecessary steps.
  • Her unconventional approach to the project was making waves, but critics felt she was just going around the houses.

Examples of "Going Around the Houses" in Pop Culture

The phrase isn't as common in pop culture as some idioms, but it does crop up now and then to highlight the idea of being unnecessarily complex or indirect.

Let's see some examples:

  • From the book Roman Social History: A Sourcebook: "When the rich were taking their baths in the middle of the day, I saw some suave and good-looking young men not going around the houses, but around the Craneion, especially where the bread sellers and fruit vendors usually reside."
  • A quote from Sen. Feargal Quinn's memoir: "As I tried to make my case for this innovation, I found myself going 'around the houses' between the different Government Ministers."

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Going Around the Houses"

There are plenty of other phrases that capture the same idea as "going around the houses."

Here are some:

  • Beating around the bush
  • Taking the long way
  • Dragging it out
  • Making a mountain out of a molehill
  • Talking in circles
  • Dodging the issue
  • Running around in circles
  • Wasting time
  • Overcomplicating things
  • Stalling

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Going Around the Houses":

  • What does "going around the houses" mean?

"Going around the houses" refers to taking a longer or more complex route to explain something or get something done. It implies that a person is being indirect or unnecessarily detailed.

  • How can I use "going around the houses" in a sentence?

You can use the phrase as a verb phrase to describe someone's actions or behavior. For instance: "He's going around the houses instead of getting to the point." Or, "Why are we going around the houses when we could solve this easily?"

  • Does it have a literal meaning?

Yes, the phrase originally comes from the idea of physically walking around the houses, rather than taking a more direct route. Over time, it's come to represent a more figurative concept of avoiding straightforwardness.

  • Is it used in professional settings?

It can be. The phrase is often used to critique meetings, presentations, or discussions that are felt to be taking too long to get to the point.

  • Is it a negative expression?

Generally, it is used to point out unnecessary complexity or length, so it often carries a negative connotation.

  • Can it apply to written text?

Yes, the phrase can describe a piece of writing that is overly detailed or takes too long to get to the main point.

  • Is it related to procrastination?

Not necessarily, although the two can overlap. Procrastination is about delaying action, while "going around the houses" refers to taking a longer or more complex route to achieve an action.

  • How can I avoid "going around the houses" in conversations?

Being clear and direct can help. Make sure you know what you want to say or accomplish, and try to communicate that as simply as you can.

  • Is this phrase used in American English?

It's more commonly used in British English, but Americans may understand the meaning in context.

  • Is "going around the houses" the same as "beating around the bush"?

They are similar but not the same. "Beating around the bush" usually refers to avoiding the main topic, often due to sensitivity or awkwardness. "Going around the houses" refers more to adding unnecessary complexity or length to a discussion or task.

Final Thoughts About "Going Around the Houses"

The phrase "going around the houses" is a useful idiom to describe instances where things are made more complicated than they need to be. Understanding this phrase can help you recognize when discussions or tasks are getting sidetracked by unnecessary details or deviations.

Here's a quick recap:

  • "Going around the houses" usually points out when someone is being too complex or long-winded.
  • It's often used to critique conversations or plans that aren't getting to the point quickly enough.
  • Avoiding "going around the houses" usually means staying focused and taking the most direct route to your goal.

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