Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: tergiversation\ter-jiv-er-SAY-shun\
1 : evasion of straightforward action or clear-cut statement : equivocation
2 : desertion of a cause, position, party, or faith

The tergiversation of Ken's speech left his listeners confused about where he really stood on the issue.

The Latin verb "tergiversari" means "to show reluctance," and it comes from the combination of "tergum," meaning "back," and "versare," meaning "to turn." "Tergiversari" gave English the noun "tergiversation" and the verb "tergiversate" ("to engage in tergiversation"). "Tergiversation" is the slightly older term, having been around since at least 1570; the first known use of "tergiversate" dates from 1590. There's also the much rarer adjective "tergiversant" ("tending to evade"), as well as the noun "tergiversator" ("one that tergiversates").

Previous E.T.

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