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In a word: Tergiversation

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

TERGIVERSATION

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If you tergiversate, you make contradictory or evasive statements, or you equivocate or use subterfuge.

Tergiversation

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(pronounced ter-JIV-er-say-shun) can also refer to shifting loyalties, becoming an apostate, in which circumstance equivocation might be a useful way of concealing actual loyalties.

The verb comes from the Latin

tergiversari

, "to turn one's back," of which the root components are

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tergum

, "the back," and

vertere

, "to turn."

Example:

Richard Gillman, in "Standing Up to Ezra Pound,"

The New York Times

, Aug. 25, 1991, cited at Dictionary.com: "No doubt if I worked on it, I could evolve some kind of double-talk that would get around the offensive phrase, and make the, to me, face-saving implication; but to hell with that, I have too much respect for the English language, and for your understanding of it, to go in for tergiversation and weasely circumlocution."

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