Hot on the heels of the Oxford Dictionary announcement that ‘Squeezed Middle’ was the word of the year, the dictionary.com website has made its own announcement.
The Oxford decision to go with a word that was actually two words caused some controversy. So the online dictionary’s decision to go with a word that nobody has ever heard of might turn out to be equally perplexing.
Their approach was to choose a word that has existed for some time but has resonance in relation to the events of the last 12 months, rather than a new word or usage from 2011.
So it is back to 1645 for this year’s word of the year – the verb Tergiversate.
It means ‘to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause or subject’, and editors felt that it was associated with rapidly changing times and periods of tumult, thus perfectly encapsulating the ups and downs of this year.
While I understand this approach, to me this doesn’t seem in keeping with the concept of a word of the year. I am much more in favour of a new word from the previous 12 months that captures a mood or a trend, rather than simply finding a word from the past that does that same job. You wouldn’t award an Oscar to a film from the 1930s just because it said something about the state of modern society better than any contemporary movie.
I actually wish the editors had chosen another one of the words under consideration, ‘zugzwang’, a chess term in which a player is limited to moves that either cost pieces or damage their position, just because I like the sound of it. Had they done that, then maybe I would tergiversate my view of their decision.