The 2011 word of the year

And the word of the year is … tergiversate.

It’s a verb that means “to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.” or to turn renegade. Pronounced “ter-jiv-er-sate”, it is basically a way to describe someone who likes to change their mind a lot.

Editors noted the choice is appropriate considering the currently rapidly changing political and economic situations in various parts of the world.

The website’s head of content Jay Schwartz said in a Daily Mail article, “We think that it’s immensely rewarding to find existing words that capture a precise experience and this year tumult has been the norm rather than the exception. The word encompasses a sense of ‘flip-flopping’ but it also implies a number of other complicating forces. To choose a word like ‘occupy’, ‘Arab Spring’, or ‘austerity’ would be an evaluation of events from our narrow vantage. We do not yet know what the impact of these events will be on a historical scale, whether there will be any long-term change as a result of the Occupy movement or whether democracy has finally come to the Middle East. 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?”

The editors said there are two ways they commonly select the word of the year: either by looking for a word that was used regularly (like “occupy” was this year) or one that represents the character of the year. After asking Facebook fans which method they would prefer, seven out of 10 chose the second option.

In case you’re wondering, ‘tergiversate’ dates back to 1645 and although it is not commonly used, Oliver Kamm of The Times of London did print it in his article this year, writing: “The tergiversations of stock markets are often puzzling from the outside.”

Besides ‘occupy’, other runners up this year included ‘austerity’ which means severity of manner, ‘quietus’ meaning a finishing stroke, and the word Charlie Sheen made ubiquitous this past spring – ‘winning’ which means charming, engaging or pleasing.

Last year’s word was ‘change’, chosen to reflect the world becoming a different place.

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