Yesterday, Dictionary.com (www.dictionary.com), the preferred online and mobile dictionary for students of all ages, announced it has chosen “Tergiversate” for its 2011 Word of the Year. Tergiversate means “to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.” Dictionary.com selected a difficult word for a difficult year, and in so doing decided to buck a trend in how Words of the Year are often chosen. Rather than focusing on a term in the popular vocabulary, or a new word coined by a celebrity or politician, the company decided to follow its mission of word discovery and seek a perfect candidate that will expand people’s knowledge.
Here are a few examples of how the word has turned up in the press. On August 20th, 2011, in The Times of London, Oliver Kamm said, “The tergiversations of stock markets are often puzzling from the outside. They're no less puzzling from within.” In September, the Baltimore Sun picked tergiversation as its word of the week. Last year in May of 2010, James Surowecki used the word to describe German Chancellor Angela Merkel's economic choices: “Political risk is hard to manage because so much comes down to the personal choices of policymakers, whether prime ministers or heads of central banks. And those choices aren’t always going to be economically rational—witness Merkel’s recent tergiversations.”
Words of the moment and clever coinages are great fun, but tergiversate continues to resonate across a variety of experiences from the past year. And don’t you think it’s better to walk away from a dictionary having learned something new?