There’s a Word for That: Tergiversate

atkins-bookshelf-wordsThe more you watch the news out of Washington, D.C. these days, the more likely that you have seen politicians do it on live television. No — it’s not all the lying or logrolling, it’s the slimy evasiveness, which leads us to the word in the spotlight: tergiversate. Tergiversate (pronounced “tur JIV ur sate”) is defined as making conflicting or evasive statements. The secondary meaning is to change one’s loyalties. The word is derived from the Latin word tergiversat, meaning “with one’s back turned” and from the Latin verb tergiversari derived from tergum (meaning “back”) and vertere (meaning “to turn.”). Tergiversating, however, is not a very effective smoke screen. As we have witnessed on news shows and stories in newspapers, politicians who tergiversate, hoping to end the discussion of a particular subject, achieve the exact opposite: invite further scrutiny and investigation. Recall the famous observation from the German philosopher Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel: “We learn from history that we do not learn from history.”


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