That’s the Word for It: Tergiversate


The word tergiversate was first used way back in 1590. But the word came back in full force and in 2011 it was named the Word of the Year by as it represented the changing attitudes of the time.

Here are some instances of the word being used:

“I had a feeling once about Mathematics – that I saw it all. Depth beyond depth was revealed to me – the Byss and Abyss. I saw – as one might see the transit of Venus or even the Lord Mayor’s Show – a quantity passing through infinity and changing its sign from plus to minus. I saw exactly why it happened and why the tergiversation was inevitable but it was after dinner and I let it go.”

― Winston S. Churchill, My Early Life, 1874-1904

“Ages of prolonged uncertainty, while they are compatible with the highest degree of saintliness in a few, are inimical to the prosaic every-day virtues of respectable citizens. There seems no use in thrift, when tomorrow all your savings may be dissipated; no advantage in honesty, when the man towards whom you practice it is pretty sure to swindle you; no point in steadfast adherence to the cause, when no cause is important or has a chance of stable victory; no argument in favour of truthfulness, when only supple tergiversation makes the preservation of life and fortune possible. The man whose virtue has no source except a purely terrestrial prudence will in such a world, become an adventurer if he has the courage, and, if not, will seek obscurity as a timid time-server.”

― Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy

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